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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 11 Menachem Av
1] He garbed himself with tzedakah  as with a coat of mail, and a helmet of salvation upon his head."
[This verse in fact speaks of G-d's promised actions in defense of His people. Nevertheless, the deeds of Jews that mirror G-d's deeds serve as a vessel which can receive (or as a means which can bring about) G- d's reciprocal action.  Hence when Jews act in a righteous and charitable manner, in the spirit of the term tzedakah, such conduct attracts and calls forth Divine activity on their behalf. In particular, a Jew's Divine service that resembles G-d's own acts of tzedakah contains within it a protective "coat of mail" for his body and a "helmet of salvation" for his head.
[On this verse] our Sages, of blessed memory, commented:  "Just as with chain mail all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail, so it is with charity: all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount."
[The Alter Rebbe now anticipates a question: What is gained by this analogy? Surely it is just as obvious that "all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount" as it is that "all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail."
This means - [and this is the additional point being made here] - that just as the mail is made of scales covering gaps, and these shield one against any arrow entering through the gaps, so it is with the act of charity.
[I.e., as will presently be explained, the spiritual dynamic of charity comprises (a) an element that corresponds to the chinks in a coat of mail, and (b) an element that corresponds to the protective scales (the coins) that cover those gaps.]
The meaning of this [is as follows]: Charity is greater than all the commandments, for [their performance] produces "garments" for the soul. 
[The performance of the commandments provides the "garments" that enable the soul to withstand the intense degree of Divine revelation to which it will be exposed in Gan Eden, instead of being nullified by it.]
[These garments] are drawn forth from the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof, [Deriving from a source which is infinite, they enable the soul to cope with the infinite degree of revelation which it will encounter in Gan Eden], from the level of sovev kol almin.
[Unlike the mode of life-giving Divine illumination called memaleh kol almin (lit., "filling all worlds"), which becomes integrated and manifest within the creatures it animates, the mode of Divine illumination called sovev kol almin (lit., "encompassing all worlds") is not limited to the finite spiritual capacity of created beings; it transcends and affects them from afar, so to speak.] ( The meaning of memaleh kol almin and sovev kol almin has been explained in Likkutei Amarim;  see there.)
[These garments are brought into being] by an "arousal from below," i.e., the [fulfillment of the] commands of G-d and the will of the Supreme Being.
[Since the commandments emanate from G-d's Supreme Will, from the level of sovev kol almin they serve as the source for the above- mentioned garments.]
The essence of this efflux from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is a garment and encompassing light for the Ten Sefirot of [the Four Worlds:] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, which evolve from cause to cause and from rung to rung..., [these Sefirot] being referred to as memaleh kol almin.
[The Alter Rebbe now answers the following question: Since the Sefirot themselves are the Divinity of the Four Worlds, why do they need the infinite Ein Sof-light as a garment?]
This means that the Ein Sof-light vests itself and radiates in an indwelling manner within the entire evolving chain of the Ten Sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah; [moreover,] it gives rise to the Ten Sefirot of [the World of] Atzilut which evolve into [the Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,
[The Sefirot of Atzilut thus serve as the Divine illumination for the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. This is made possible -] by means of an immense contraction (tzimtzum) which is explained in Etz Chayim.
[This contraction involves not only a quantitative lessening of spiritual illumination, but more importantly a qualitative diminution; the hitherto infinite light is contracted to so great a degree that it can emanate and illuminate in a finite manner.
[The resultant light] is referred to as an indwelling light (or pnimi) - [a light that vests itself in an inward manner within created beings, inasmuch as it is contracted to match the spiritual capacity of the particular created being in which it is clothed.]
Now, by the fulfillment of the commandments, the above-mentioned encompassing light is elicited and radiates within the Ten Sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, thereby uniting with the indwelling light.
[When this occurs, the infinite and transcendent light (or makkif) permeates the indwelling light (or pnimi) of Seder Hishtalshelut - the self-obscuring and chain-like descent of the Divine life-force through which increasingly material worlds come in to being.]
This is referred to as the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, [the epithet "holy" (kadosh) signifying His separateness from the world, hence the level of sovev kol almin,] and His Shechinah, [the indwelling light which is so called because the Divine Presence descends and dwells (shochen) within the created worlds], as is explained elsewhere. 
[It is explained in another context that the performance of mitzvot results in this union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah. This is why we say L'shem Yichud - ("For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah") - before we perform certain mitzvot: for it is they that fuse the light of sovev kol almin, known as "the Holy One, blessed be He," with the light of memaleh kol almin, known as the Shechinah. Thus, the main radiation of Divine light drawn down through the performance of commandments, is effected within the evolution of the Sefirot of the Four Worlds.]
And from a reflection of a reflection of the above-mentioned encompassing light, by means of a powerful contraction, a garment is made in the Lower and Upper Garden of Eden for the [soul-levels called] Nefesh - Ruach -Neshamah of man, enabling them to derive pleasure and attain some apprehension and illumination from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which is diffused in the Garden of Eden, as is explained elsewhere. 
[For, unaided, the finite soul would never be able to apprehend this infinite radiance.]
This is the meaning of the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory:  "In this world there is no reward for [the fulfillment of] the commandments." [They do not say that "in this world there is no reward granted..."; rather, that "there exists no reward in this world...."] For in this world, which is physical, and in a state of limitation, a state of great and most extreme contraction, it is impossible that any reflection of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light should become invested, except by means of the Ten Sefirot, which, in the sacred Zohar,  are referred to as the "Body":
[The Alter Rebbe will soon explain that just as body and soul are incomparable, so too are the Sefirot infinitely distant from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light. As a reward for performance of the commandments one is enabled to draw down the infinite degree of light, but this light cannot possibly descend within this world, which is bounded. Thus, "In this world there is no reward for [the fulfillment of] the commandments." No such revelation can possibly be clothed in this world, for whatever illuminates and clothes itself in this world derives merely from the level of the Ten Sefirot, which the Zohar terms the "Body".
Thus, for example: The Sefirah of] Chesed ["kindness"] is [called] the [Supernal] "right arm," [Gevurah "severity" is called the "left arm,"] and so on. For just as there is no comparison between the physical body and the soul, so there is no comparison whatever between the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut and the Supreme Emanator, the [infinite] Ein Sof.
For in relation to the Ein Sof even the Supreme Chochmah ("wisdom"), which is the first of the Sefirot, is on the plane of material action, as is explained in Likkutei Amarim. 
Therefore, through the practice of charity and deeds of kindness, whose fruits man enjoys partially in this world,  [Since some minute quantity of the reward for the fulfillment of these commandments is enjoyed within this world, it follows that a microscopic ray of the infinite light of sovev kol almin does descend into this world. This is possible, because:] there appear, metaphorically speaking, gaps in the supernal garment that envelops the "Body"Ó, [which is] the vessels of the Ten Sefirot.
Through these [gaps] light and abundance are irradiated and diffused, so that from [the Sefirah of] "Chesed, [which is] the right arm," [there results] longevity in this physical world; and from "the left arm," [which is the Sefirah of Gevurah], [there result] wealth and honor, and likewise with beauty, that emanates from the Sefirah of Tiferet, and majesty (hod), splendor (hadar) and gladness (chedvah), etc., [from the respective Sefirot of Hod, Yesod, etc. .
But in order to prevent the forces of evil from drawing, on high, from the light and abundance which evolves and descends netherwards, as far down as this physical world, [When this spiritual energy descends to such a lowly level, it is possible for the kelipot and sitra achra to derive nurture from it as well. In order to forestall this], and likewise, here below, in order to shield man, and to guard him and save him from all physical and spiritual harm, [which could conceivably result if the kelipot and sitra achra were to derive nurture from this source], the encompassing light is reflected back, and, figuratively speaking, fills the breach.
[Once the encompassing light has (so to speak) shone down into this world through the chink produced by man's charitable deeds, it is then reflected back in order to fill the very same breach. This deprives the forces of evil of any possible nurture via the same avenue,] for this [encompassing light] belongs to the category of Infinitude and sovev kol almin, as mentioned above - [and this infinitely transcendent degree of light (called or makkif) is a source from which the forces of evil are unable to derive any sustenance.
We thus see why tzedakah, producing its own provident "gaps" and its own protective "scales", is likened to a coat of mail. Moreover:] And this is [what underlies] the [above-quoted] teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: "[Just as with chain mail all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail, so it is with charity: all the individual coins] add up to a great amount." The word "great" is used advisedly, in the spirit of the verse,  "Great is Havayah and exceedingly glorified" without end, limit or restriction (  heaven forfend).
[Thus, by means of the coins given to charity one draws down spiritual light from the level denoted by the phrase, "Great is Havayah." The Four-Letter Divine Name alludes to the Ten Sefirot - for the letter Yud represents the level of Chochmah; the first letter Hei represents the level of Binah; Vav represents the six middot, the spiritual emotions; and the final Hei represents Malchut.  These Sefirot are sustained by the Ein Sof and partake of its infinite greatness.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 59:17.
- (Back to text) The Hebrew word means both "charity" (its primary meaning in this work) and "righteousness".
- (Back to text) This recalls the Alter Rebbe's interpretation of the teaching, Da Ma Lemala Mimach - Know [that] that which is Above [comes about] from you (HaYom Yom, entry for 13 Iyar). (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Bava Batra 9b.
- (Back to text) As explained below, in Epistle 29. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Parentheses appear in the original text.
- (Back to text) Ch. 48.
- (Back to text) Cf. [Tanya] Part I, ch. 41. However, we cannot say that [the Alter Rebbe] intended to indicate this chapter, for if this were so he would have added "in Likkutei Amarim," as he had just done in this same epistle with regard to sovev kol almin. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) See below, Epistle 29.
- (Back to text) Kiddushin 39b.
- (Back to text) [The level termed "Body" is] infinitely lower than its soul - the Ein Sof-light. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) The reference is evidently to Part II, chs. 8-9, which furnishes a more extensive explanation of this subject than is offered here.
Even less explanation than here is offered in the Alter Rebbe's Note to Part I, ch. 2; it is thus clear that the above reference cannot be to this source. It is true that in Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 4 (and elsewhere), the Alter Rebbe when applicable specifies "Part II" of Likkutei Amarim - but this is done only where he wishes to cite an exact location, as we see from his concluding words ("ch. 11"). This is not the case here.
(Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Kiddushin 40a.
- (Back to text) It would seem that the Alter Rebbe omitted [the Sefirah of] Netzach. Furthermore, what does he mean by etc.? The above alignment evidently follows Zohar II (98a-b, cited in Tzemach Tzedek on Tehillim 104:1), in which majesty (hod), splendor (hadar) and gladness (chedvah) correspond respectively to [the three Sefirot of] Netzach, Hod and Yesod. (According to what is stated there we may also understand why the Alter Rebbe used these three appelations rather than Netzach, Hod and Yesod.) As to the concluding "etc.", this possibly refers to the Sefirah of Malchut, which is the end product the "etc." of the foregoing Sefirot.
(Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Tehillim 48:2.
- (Back to text) Parentheses appear in the original text.
- (Back to text) See above, Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 4.
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