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A Treasury of Letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Selections from Igros Kodesh
The concept that the initial tzimtzum should not be interpreted as a withdrawal of G-dliness; the nature of the kav; when an orphan should begin putting on tefillin; whether the recitation of the expression B’rich Rachmana satisfies one’s obligation to recite the Grace After Meals; reciting Amen after blessings recited by children being trained to observe mitzvos; pronouncing G-d’s name while teaching students beyond the age of majority; permission for a child to hold a Torah scroll; the recitation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy when praying alone; the recitation of the half-Kaddish that follows the reading of the Torah in the afternoon service on Shabbos; the importance of the attribute of zeal
Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger
Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
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The name of the person to whom this letter was sent was not released.B"H, 15 Tammuz, 5709
Greetings and blessings,
In reply to your letter, [responding to your points] in order:
Obviously, this is [the Alter Rebbe’s] intent. The entire discussion of whether the concept of tzimtzum should be understood in a simple sense or not revolves on what is stated at the beginning of Otzros Chayim and Mevo Shaarim which speaks about the first tzimtzum, as explicitly stated in the commentary Yosher LeVav by R. Immanuel Chai Riki (Beis 1, Cheder 1, ch. 14), et al. This is also somewhat apparent from what is stated in Likkutei Torah (the additions to Parshas Vayikra, the maamar entitled LeHavin Mah SheKasuv BeOtzros Chayim) and in several maamarim.
- With regard to what is stated in Tanya (Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 7) that there are those who went astray and erred in understanding, [and maintain] that the tzimtzum should be comprehended in a simple sense: Is the intent that these people erred with regard to the first tzimtzum?
This must be made known: In [Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah] and in Iggeres HaKodesh, [the Alter Rebbe] elaborates on the explanation of the error in interpreting the tzimtzum in a simple sense. [The same sages] erred in another matter, for they said that the tzimtzum involved G-d’s essence and it does not, as stated in Torah Or, the beginning of Parshas Vayeira; Likkutei Torah, loc. cit.; Derech Mitzvosecha (as noted in the index there), and others.
It is possible to give two explanations of the matter:
- If they erred in the interpretation of the first tzimtzum which preceded the emanation of all the worlds, why does the Alter Rebbe say here: “He withdrew His essence from this world”?
It is possible to explain that G-d drew down [His essence] again not only with regard to the world of Atzilus, but even to those worlds of which it is not appropriate to say: “He and His life-energy are one; He and His causations are one”; to cite a parallel: the explanation given regarding the radiance of the kav in the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.
- The factor that caused these sages to interpret the tzimtzum in a simple manner is that, [according to their understanding,] it is impossible to say that G-d’s essence did not remove Itself from this world. For if so, He would be found among “lowly material entities that are not worthy; indeed, they are base.” Therefore the Alter Rebbe focused on the beginning and the foundation of their thesis.
- Regarding the other worlds, it is possible to say that after the [first] tzimtzum, He drew down His essence again. If so, the questions raised later [in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah] based on the Tikkunei Zohar and the Raaya Mehemna are not relevant. Regarding this world, by contrast, according to their approach, it is impossible to say that G-d drew down His essence again, because if so, He would be found within material entities, as above.
— Parenthetically, on the surface, the verb beka used in Tanya should be in the feminine form, bekaah, because the subject haarah is feminine. Nevertheless, the masculine form is used in all of the printings [of Tanya] that I have seen. —
- Does the above share a connection to the Alter Rebbe’s statements in Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20, that the radiance of the kav pierced through the parsa?
In my humble opinion, this is not relevant to the issue at all. For the Alter Rebbe never conceived of the tzimtzum in a simple sense, in which case it would have had to be “corrected” through drawing down the kav. Furthermore, according to all approaches, drawing down the kav does not negate the concept of tzimtzum. Instead, it corrects certain particulars that were brought about by the tzimtzum and grants the potential and the possibility to nullify the concept of tzimtzum through the Divine service of the Torah and its mitzvos. This is understood from the explanations in Chassidus concerning the tzimtzum and the kav. It is also understood from the following analogy: “Through the tzimtzum, a vacuum and a round empty cavity were created, into which He drew down one thin line.” It is obvious, even in terms of the analogy, that a kav (line) cannot fill the place of a circle. When [looking] at the analogue, [the emanation of the higher spiritual realms,] there is also an obvious indication [that the concept does not apply]. The kav also shines in Atzilus. Nevertheless, only “His life-energy and His causations” (the lights and vessels) are one with Him. The heichalos (palaces) and angels that exist in Atzilus are not one with Him, as stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20. Before the tzimtzum, by contrast, [everything is at one with Him]. This is obvious.
See the long note near the beginning of the maamar entitled Tiku, 5650, which explains that the statements of the Etz Chayim (Shaar Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah) and the Shaar HaHakdamos (Shaar Derushei Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah) — that from the Ten Sefiros of the essence of the lights of Atzilus come into being the Ten Sefiros of the essence of Beriah — can be interpreted as [communicating the same idea as is] stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, [loc. cit.]: that the radiance of the kav pierced through the parsa. If so, this is not a new concept introduced by the Alter Rebbe. Perhaps the intent [of your question] is that the Alter Rebbe introduced this new interpretation of the Etz Chayim because it is possible to interpret the Etz Chayim in a different manner. Note the text of the Etz Chayim.
- Is it possible to say that according to the Etz Chayim the radiance of the kav concludes in Atzilus? [This causes] the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah to exist as separate [realms]. Thus the Alter Rebbe developed a new concept, stating that the radiance of the kav pierced through the parsa.
Regardless [of the interpretation of the Etz Chayim], even if [one does not say that the radiance of the kav] pierced through [the parsa], it is impossible to say that [the worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah are separate [from G-d], for the kav is enclothed in the entire spiritual cosmos, as stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, loc. cit.: “The kav itself is enclothed in the culminating levels of Netzach, Hod, and Yesod which conclude in Malchus of Asiyah.” This [statement] is found in Etz Chayim, in the introduction to Shaar 43, and in several other places. Further on in Iggeres HaKodesh, [the Alter Rebbe] cites [the statements of] Sefer HaGilgulim with regard to the nature of the enclothment [of the Divine light within the spiritual cosmos]. In the maamar entitled Samach Tisamach (5657, near its conclusion), the distinction [between the enclothment of the kav in Atzilus and its enclothment in the lower realms] is explained: In Atzilus, the kav is overtly revealed, while in Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, it is hidden.
I have found this custom cited in the works of the later Achronim. The text Pinos HaBayis (by R. Tzvi Y. Michelson), sec. 85, cites it as a “universal custom” and states that the reason widely given [for this custom] is that [doing so] brings merit to the departed. (Some clarification is required, [for one might ask]: What merit is there for the departed [if his son] performs an act that is not appropriate for him, not even as part of his training [in Jewish observance]? The recitation of [the Mourners’] Kaddish [for a departed parent] is, by contrast, appropriate for a minor. Moreover, [when the minor] recites Kaddish, men who are obligated [in the observance of mitzvos] respond and hear how [the child] justifies [G-d’s] judgment. The question can be resolved, albeit with difficulty.)
- Should an orphan begin putting on tefillin when he becomes twelve years old?
Another reason given is that people who take care of the children — or at least one such person — are lacking. Therefore he should be trained [in the observance of this mitzvah] in advance. (On the surface, [this explanation is also somewhat problematic,] because training [in the observance of tefillin] is not so difficult that it requires extra effort.)
The reason we begin at the age of twelve can be explained on the basis of the statements of the Pri Megadim at the conclusion of [Orach Chayim,] sec. 37. In the text Pinos HaBayis, a source — Gittin 52a — is cited for this [practice]: “A guardian purchases tefillin for an orphan.” Now an orphan who is thirteen years old is considered an adult (Rivosh, Responsum 468; the Responsa of Maharibal, Vol. II, ch. 15) and it is necessary to give him the estate of his father (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 290:16) [and thus the orphans can purchase the tefillin themselves]. Hence, we are forced to say that we are speaking about a minor under thirteen.
It is obvious that this is a weak support. For what [forces us] to say that we are speaking about age twelve at all? Nevertheless, this is stated in that text. From the gloss Kapos Tamarim to Sukkah 42a, it appears that even an orphan should begin [putting on tefillin] at age thirteen.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim, the conclusion of sec. 37) writes that it is not correct [for a child to put on tefillin at age twelve], because one must be very careful regarding the holiness of tefillin. Os Chayim (37:5) by the Rebbe of Munkatch (quoted also in the text Darkei Chayim VeShalom, [a compendium of] his customs) states that [a boy], even an orphan, should not begin putting on tefillin at all even a day before he becomes thirteen.
The custom of teaching young boys to put on tefillin two or three months before they reach the age of thirteen has become widespread and is cited by the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch (the conclusion of sec. 37). In my humble opinion, based on all of the above, unless there are special instances in which there are clear reasons to do otherwise, one should not add to the training period beyond that [observed] by other boys, even for orphans. In the time that you wish to teach him to put on tefillin, teach him [about] the Torah and its mitzvos [instead].
In addition to the above points, [there is a further reason why a boy should not put on tefillin earlier]: the concern that perhaps he will erroneously be counted in a minyan or the like. Another support for not training an orphan earlier [in the observance of this mitzvah] can be taken from the fact that the Alter Rebbe does not mention this in his Shulchan Aruch. This, however, cannot be taken as a definitive reason [not to observe this practice], since, as it appears to me, the Alter Rebbe was cautious. [For example, in his Shulchan Aruch] he rarely brings new laws that were not cited by the halachic authorities who preceded him. This follows the practice of Rif and Rambam [in the composition of their texts], as is known with regard to the general principles of halachic review.
[Regarding the practice] in the Rebbe’s household: My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, began putting on tefillin in private [and] with a blessing in 5651, i.e., when he became eleven years old.
All of the [first] three blessings of Grace After Meals are required according to Scriptural Law. [Even] after the fact, [the recitation of] B’rich Rachmana only takes the place of the blessing Hazan [es hakol] (Berachos 40b). This point is also obvious and must be accepted, as evident from the fact that the question is raised whether women are exempt from saying Grace After Meals, since they were not given a share in the apportioning of the land, nor are they obligated in circumcision or Torah study, all of which are mentioned in the second blessing.
- According to Scriptural Law, does [the recitation of] the expression B’rich Rachmana satisfy one’s obligation to recite the Grace After Meals?
This should be made known: The Alter Rebbe has ruled (Seder Bircas HaNehanim 13:4) that the wording [of the blessing recited upon hearing of the deliverance of a friend from danger] is Rachmana Elokana Malka di’alma. This follows the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah (Berachos, the beginning of ch. 9; cited by Turei Zahav and Be’er Heitev [in their glosses to] Orach Chayim 219:1). The Seder Bircas HaNehanim was authored later than his Shulchan Aruch (sec. 187:4) where he does not include the terms Elokana and di’alma. Obviously, a distinction should not be made between one blessing and another.
There is an explicit statement in the Talmud (Berachos 53b) quoted as halachah by the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chayim 215:2-3] with no uncertainty that one should not answer [Amen]. I don’t understand the reason for your doubt.
- Should one recite Amen after blessings recited by students in the process of their training?
It is explained in the Talmud, the Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit., that it is permitted to say [G-d’s name] when teaching children. Thus it is apparent that there is no prohibition for the teacher. The rationale is that [he is saying G-d’s name because] he is teaching. [Indeed,] the opposite is true; he is performing a mitzvah: “And you shall teach them to your children.”
- Is it permitted to pronounce G-d’s name while teaching students who are obligated [to recite] blessings and the like, even when they are being taught at a time when they are not obligated [to recite the blessings]?
If so, how much more so would it seem that there be no prohibition for the student, because a person’s own Torah study deserves priority [over teaching others], as it is stated (Kiddushin 29b; the Alter Rebbe’s Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:7): When there is a question — Who should study? Oneself or one’s son? — the person himself receives priority. Nevertheless, it is explicitly stated that [students above bar-mitzvah] are forbidden to [mention G-d’s name when studying].
[This is reflected] in the deviation from the wording of the Magen Avraham and the Shulchan Aruch [of Rav Yosef Caro], sec. 215:5, found in the “golden wording” of the Alter Rebbe’s [Shulchan Aruch]. The Magen Avraham writes: “When an adult studies blessings in the Gemara,” he should not mention [G-d’s name]. The Alter Rebbe, by contrast, writes (215:2): “It is forbidden for an adult who is learning,” i.e., learning the blessings, [to recite G-d’s name]. ([Indeed,] the interpretation of the Magen Avraham requires clarification, for according to his explanation, [the situation concerning] the adult is not entirely analogous to that concerning the child.)
It is possible to say that the basis for the Alter Rebbe’s statements is from the Gemara, loc. cit., which speaks of “children” rather than “students.” It is possible to explain the rationale [as follows]: Since one is able to teach [an adult] at the time when he is actually obligated [to recite the blessings], it is not appropriate — at least according to Rabbinic decree — to do so at those times when he is exempt. With regard to a child, by contrast, he is always exempt.
[One might question the latter point, noting that the concept of being obligated also applies to a child, as indicated by the following distinction:] We answer Amen after a child recites a blessing [when he eats or the like], but not when he studies. The rationale is [that the child’s obligation to recite a blessing] is based on the mitzvah of] chinuch. [Now the obligation of] chinuch applies jointly to the father — who is obligated to educate — and the child — who is obligated to be educated. This, however, cannot serve as a basis to permit [a person] to recite G-d’s name [to educate] a colleague to whom he is not related and whom he is not obligated to educate. Hence, a distinction should not be made between the time when a child is being educated or not. And since it was permitted [for a child to mention G-d’s name while studying], it is also permitted for the father [to do so while teaching him]. It is possible to offer such an explanation, although it is somewhat difficult.
I have seen this done without any protests or objections being made.
- Can a child be allowed to hold a Torah scroll after it is lifted up and the like?
I never saw or heard of such a distinction being made. The ruling is rendered in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 565:5) without making any qualifications. The text of Siddur Tehillat Hashem HaShaleim was photocopied from a previous Siddur and there was not enough time to check it as thoroughly as necessary.
- Is there a difference in the way the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are recited by an individual [who is not davening with a minyan] during the morning prayers, the afternoon prayers, or Selichos?
See Shaar HaKollel, ch. 29. Our custom, based on the directives of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, is, however, to begin reciting the half-Kaddish before — but close to the conclusion of — the binding of the Torah scroll. That binding and the recitation of Yehalelu should be hurried so that the half-Kaddish will be completed after [the Torah scroll] is returned [to the ark]. At the very least, it should be juxtaposed to the Shemoneh Esreh to the fullest extent possible.
- When should [the sheliach tzibbur] begin reciting the half-Kaddish that follows the reading of the Torah in the afternoon service on Shabbos?
You will no doubt acknowledge receipt of this letter.
- We just received the photograph sent for the book of photographs that will serve as a remembrance in the chamber of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. Note the statements of the Alter Rebbe in [Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 21, [praising the quality of] zeal. To focus on the particular wording used [by the Alter Rebbe which praises Avraham for responding to G-d’s command: “With wondrous zeal to show his happiness and desire to fulfill the will of His Creator:”] “Zeal” was reflected by his rising early; “wondrous” could be interpreted as referring to the fact that he saddled his donkey himself. “To show” [implies that he also] sought [to make an impression] on others, so that they would see and learn. See the maamar [in the kuntreis] of Yud-Beis Tammuz which explains that the Divine service of a baal teshuvah also involves [reaching out to] others. It is possible to explain that Avraham’s Divine service in binding Yitzchak went against his nature, as alluded to by the phrase: “Now I know that you are G-d-fearing.” This represents the difference between baalei teshuvah and perfectly righteous men. “His happiness and desire” [relates to the attributes of] Will [Ratzon] and Pleasure [Taanug]. See the conclusion of the series of maamarim from Pesach, 5709, with regard to the qualities of happiness and pleasure.
- You are no doubt aware of the desire of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, to receive records of the stories of the elder chassidim and the chronicles of their lives. It would be fitting for you to write out your father’s biography and the like and send it to the department of Otzar HaChassidim that collects memoirs. [You should also] motivate people upon whom you have influence to do likewise.
With greetings to all the members of our brotherhood.
- (Back to text) [The initial contraction of Divine light that allowed for the creation of the world.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., that G-d withdrew Himself from Creation, as it were. See also the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, Vol. I, Letter No. 11, which discusses this subject. The Chabad conception is that the tzimtzum is not simple, i.e., G-d’s essence is not withdrawn from the world although it is not revealed.]
- (Back to text) [Epistle 25.]
- (Back to text) [Instead, the tzimtzum involves only His light (the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, loc. cit.).]
- (Back to text) [I.e., in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, loc. cit.]
- (Back to text) [The introduction to the Tikkunei Zohar (3b) uses this expression to describe the oneness between G-d and the lights (oros) and vessels (keilim). With regard to the worlds below Atzilus, this expression is not appropriate because the oneness within these realms is not complete. Nevertheless, the errant approaches cited by the Alter Rebbe could accept the concept of G-d drawing Himself down into those worlds, since those worlds are spiritual in nature. Our material world, by contrast, because of its lowly, physical existence, presents a problem to their conception. For they could not conceive of Him uniting with material entities in a complete sense.]
- (Back to text) [The term parsa (lit., “curtain”) refers to the mediums of concealment that separate between the worlds of Beriah and Atzilus.]
- (Back to text) [Etz Chayim, Shaar 1, Anaf 2.]
- (Back to text) [And thus the kav does not “correct” the tzimtzum, because, on a revealed level, the unity within existence that exists after drawing down the kav is not comparable to the unity that existed before the tzimtzum.]
- (Back to text) [Generally, boys begin putting on tefillin two months before their bar-mitzvah. The question is being asked whether an exception should be made for an orphan.]
- (Back to text) I.e., the parent.
- (Back to text) [In his Eshel Avraham 37:4, the Pri Megadim cites sources that speak of a father’s obligation to train his son to put on tefillin in his thirteenth year, i.e., after he turns twelve.]
- (Back to text) [And thus, as a chassid, it is not appropriate to observe a practice not recommended by one’s Rebbe.]
- (Back to text) [See She’eris Yehudah, p. 21a.; Divrei Nechemiah, p. 19c. Thus the fact that the Alter Rebbe did not cite this law is not necessarily enough of a reason for a chassid not to follow it.]
- (Back to text) [B’rich Rachmana Elokana Malka di’alma mara d’hai pita, the shortened version of Grace After Meals recited by young children. According to Rabbinic Law, it is necessary for an adult to recite the four blessings of the Grace After Meals. The questioner is asking whether according to Scriptural Law, the recitation of B’rich is sufficient.]
- (Back to text) [The first blessing of Grace After Meals, for both it and the expression B’rich Rachmana thank G-d for providing us with our sustenance.]
- (Back to text) [See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 186:1; see also Rashi, and Me’iri, to Berachos 20b.]
- (Back to text) [The Merciful One, G-d, King of the world.]
- (Back to text) [And thus we follow the halachic principle that the halachah follows the text that is authored last.]
- (Back to text) [Thus, although in the Shulchan Aruch the Alter Rebbe does not mention the terms Elokana and di’alma with regard to the version of B’rich Rachmana in the Grace recited by children, based on his statement in Seder Bircas HaNehehanim, we can assume that it should be recited. There is no reason to differentiate between the two instances.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., students above the age of bar-mitzvah.]
- (Back to text) [Devarim 6:7.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., the study of the students as opposed to the instruction given by the teacher.]
- (Back to text) [For, unlike young children, they are bound by the prohibition against mentioning G-d’s name.]
- (Back to text) [Speaking of the contrast between a child studying blessings and an adult’s study.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., anyone above bar-mitzvah.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., according to the Magen Avraham, the ruling concerning a child refers to a situation where he is learning the blessings themselves, while that concerning an adult speaks of a situation where the blessings are mentioned in the subject matter he is studying.]
- (Back to text) [For example, an adult can be taught to recite a blessing over a fruit before partaking of it when he is obligated and not when he does not partake of it, at which time he is exempt.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., one below bar-mitzvah.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., in contrast to the education of an adult where there is a difference between the time he is obligated and other times, no such difference exists with regard to a child.]
- (Back to text) [I.e., after the Torah is raised in the Hagbaah ceremony and covered with its mantle, it is sometimes given to a child to hold before it is returned to the ark.]
- (Back to text) [Because of the holiness of these Thirteen Attributes, they should not be recited by a person when praying individually; only when praying together with a minyan.]
- (Back to text) [There the Shulchan Aruch rules that a person praying individually should not recite the Thirteen Attributes as prayer, but may recite them as if he is reading Scripture.]
- (Back to text) [And thus, our custom not to recite the Thirteen Attributes when praying individually, even with the cantillation notes, was not mentioned in the Siddur.]
- (Back to text) [See Sefer HaMinhagim — Chabad, p. 34. The intent is that the half-Kaddish will serve two purposes: to conclude the Torah reading, but also to introduce the Shemoneh Esreh.]
- (Back to text) [See the notes to Letter No. 499 which describe this book. The recipient of the letter sent his picture almost immediately after the request for the pictures was sent out. Hence the Rebbe praises the zeal with which he fulfilled this request.]
- (Back to text) [Sefer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 184.]
- (Back to text) [Bereishis 22:12. I.e., Avraham’s Divine service was generally characterized by kindness and love, but in this instance, he displayed the opposite quality, “fear.”]
- (Back to text) [I.e., the propensity to go beyond one’s nature.]
- (Back to text) [Sefer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 131ff.]
- (Back to text) [One of the branches of the Lubavitch publishing house, Kehot Publications.]
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