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Tanya for Sunday, 21 Adar, 5777 - March 19, 2017

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 21 Adar

20 Adar, 5777 - March 18, 201722 Adar, 5777 - March 20, 2017

Chapter Thirty-Six

In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe began to explain why the observance of the practical mitzvot is the ultimate purpose of Torah and of one's spiritual service to G-d.

(This practical aspect is underscored by the conclusion of the verse, "For the thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.")

He explained that only mitzvot observed through action draw down the light of the Shechinah upon one's animal soul and body (rather than upon the divine soul alone, as do the mitzvot performed only in thought and speech).

Yet this does not answer one question satisfactorily:

Why is the illumination of the body and animal soul so important that those (practical) mitzvot which accomplish this illumination should be considered one's primary objective?

The Alter Rebbe addresses this question in chapter 36.

He explains that G-d's purpose in Creation is that he might have a dwelling place "in the lower realms"; specifically, in this physical world.

In this world of doubled and redoubled spiritual darkness, His Ein Sof-light would radiate even more powerfully than it does in the higher, spiritual realms, through man's transforming the darkness into light.

In man, the microcosm, the animal soul and the body are "the lower realms." Therefore, the practical mitzvot which draw the light of the Shechinah upon them constitute man's ultimate purpose.

Furthermore, through the practical mitzvot, and through their elevating effect on the body and animal soul, the material world in its entirety becomes a "dwelling place" for G-d. (This, however, properly belongs to the discussion in chapter 37.)]

In a well-known statement, our Rabbis declare [1] that the purpose for which this world was created is that the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to have an abode in the lower realms.

[He desired that the essence of His Ein Sof-light be revealed as it is, without veil or concealment, amidst the lower creations.

Our Sages use the word "abode", or "dwelling place," to describe such revelation.

Just as a man's home serves as an abode for his essence, so too, is this world intended to be an "abode" for G-d's Essence.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the phrase "the lower realms" mentioned above.

He shows that this refers specifically to our physical world.

The explanation in brief:

The terms "higher" and "lower" realms do not denote degrees of respective importance in the sight of G-d, or of closeness to Him.

In G-d's eyes all the worlds, from the highest to the lowest, are equally insignificant; all are equally remote from Him.

On the other hand, He fills the lowest world just as He fills the highest.

Thus, the terms "higher" and "lower" must be understood as a standard of comparison within the numerous worlds.

They indicate to what degree G-dliness is revealed in each individual world: the more revelation, the "higher" the world; the more obscurity and concealment, the "lower" (the world). From this standpoint, our physical world is the very lowest, for here G-dliness is most veiled and concealed.

In the Alter Rebbe's words]:

But surely, before G-d [i.e., in His sight] the distinction of "higher" and "lower" is not valid, [one world is no higher than another], for he pervades all worlds equally.

[What, then, do our Sages mean by saying that "G-d desired an abode in the `lower' realms?]"

The explanation of the matter, however, is [that G-d desired an abode in that realm considered "lower" within the ranks of the worlds] as follows:

Before the world [any world] was created, there was only He alone, one and unique, filling all the space in which He created the world.

[Anything that could be conceived of as a "space" or possibility for creation, was filled with the Ein Sof-light].

In His view, [indeed], it is still the same now. [Creation wrought no change in His unity; He is One alone now just as He was prior to creation].

The change applies only to the recipients of His vivifying force and His light - [before creation there was none to receive the Divine life-force and light; Creation brought into being these recipients], who receive [this life-force and light] by way of numerous "garments" which veil and conceal G-d's light [for without such garments they could not bear its intensity, and would cease to exist].

So it is written: [2] "For no man can see Me and live."

[Furthermore, not only man, a physical being, but even spiritual beings such as angels are unable to receive the divine light and life-force without concealing garments].

And as our Rabbis, of blessed memory, interpret [the word Vochai "...and live" in this verse, as referring to angels; thus] [3]: "Even angels, called [holy chayyot] cannot see..." [G-dliness, except by way of garments which conceal Him, thereby enabling them to receive His light.

The degree of concealment varies, however, from world to world and from level to level.

Here the distinction between "higher" and "lower" realms becomes valid, as the Alter Rebbe continues]:

This [concealment] is the subject of the Hishtalshelut [the chain-like, graded and downward succession] of the worlds, and their descent from level to level, through the many "garments" that conceal the light and the life-force emanating from Him - [the more concealment, the lower the descent]; culminating in the creation of this physical, gross world.

[This world is not only physical - so that the truth of G-d's creative power is not in evidence; it is also gross, in that the lie is held up as a truth].

[This world] is the lowest in degree; there is none lower than it in terms of concealment of His light and no world compares with it for doubled and redoubled darkness; [nowhere is G-d's light hidden as in this world].

So much so, that it is filled with kelipot and sitra achra which actually oppose G-d, saying: "I am, and there is nothing else besides me."

[It is thus clear that the term "lower realms" refers to this physical world, the very lowest in degree of divine revelation.

Since there is but one "order of Hishtalshelut," a question arises: Does its ultimate purpose lie in the higher worlds, where G-dliness is revealed to a greater degree, while the lower worlds serve only to emphasize the revelation found in those higher than them (since light is distinguishable only where darkness exists)? Or, on the contrary, does its purpose lie in the lower realms (but in order to create them an order of Hishtalshelut is necessary, entailing the creation of the higher realms)?

Obviously, concealment of G-dliness is not an end in itself; thus, if we assume the second position, it follows that these lower realms were created so that the darkness pervading them be transformed to light.

The statement that "G-d desired an abode in the lower realms" shows the latter position to be the true one; and the "abode" is built by the revelation of His Presence in this lowest of worlds to a degree surpassing even that in the highest.

This, in brief, is the subject of the following paragraphs in the text].

The purpose of the Hishtalshelut of the worlds, and of their descent from level to level, is not for the sake of the higher worlds, since for them this constitutes a descent from the light of His Countenance. Rather, the purpose of Hishtalshelut is this lowest world.

[The very word "world" (Olam) in Hebrew denotes concealment. Thus, even the highest worlds constitute, by their very existence, a descent from the pervading level of G-dliness that preceded their creation.

It is illogical, then, to say that the revelation which these higher worlds represent is the purpose of the Hishtalshelut, since their revelation is actually concealment - and the ultimate purpose of creation lies in revelation, not concealment.

All the higher worlds are merely steps in the descent of the divine creative power; in each of them the light is veiled yet further, until it is finally reduced to the minute degree of revelation that this physical world is capable of receiving.

Thus, the purpose of the Hishtalshelut is this world], for such was His will - that He find it pleasurable when the sitra achra is subjugated [to holiness], and the darkness of [kelipah] is transformed into [holy] light, so that in the place of the darkness and sitra achra [prevailing] throughout this world, the Ein Sof-light of G-d will shine forth with greater strength and intensity, and with the superior quality of light that emerges from the darkness.

[I.e., when darkness is transformed into light, the resulting light is superior to ordinary light; it will thus shine with greater intensity] than its radiance in the higher worlds. [4]

There, [in the higher worlds], it shines through garments and [through] concealment of the Countenance [a concealment of the pnimiyut - i.e., the internal aspect - of the light] which conceal and screen the Ein Sof-light, so that [the worlds] do not dissolve out of existence.

[For were the Ein Sof-light not screened by garments, the worlds could not bear it, and would dissolve.

Thus, the revelation wrought by subjugation of the kelipot in this world, is greater than that of the higher worlds; there the Ein Sof - light is hidden, whereas here in this world it is revealed in all its strength.

A question arises, however. How is it possible (even upon subjugating the kelipot and transforming them into holiness) that we in this world should experience a revelation of the Ein Sof-light without veil or concealment, when even the higher worlds cannot receive such revelation without dissolving into nothingness?

In answerr, the Alter Rebbe writes]:

For this purpose the Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel the Torah which is called "might" and "strength" [for it gives us strength to receive such revelation, without being overwhelmed by it], and as our Rabbis say, [5] that G-d gives tzaddikim the strength to receive their reward in the World to Come;

[Why is this "strength" necessary?]

So that their existence should not dissolve within the divine light that will reveal itself in the hereafter without any garment, as it is written: [6] "And your Teacher will no longer hide (Yikanef) from you ( [7] meaning - [not as some interpret the verse: "He will no longer withhold (Yikanef) your reins (Morecha)," but, following Rashi] "He will no longer conceal Himself from you with the edge of a robe or garment (Kanaf)"), and your eyes will behold Your Teacher"; and it is also written: [8] "For they shall see eye to eye...," [meaning that the human eye will see as the divine "eye" sees, i.e., we will clearly see the revelation of G-d's light]; and it is further written: [9] "The sun shall no longer be your light by day,... for G-d will be your eternal light."

[The strength to receive this light, which will shine forth in the World to Come without "garment" or concealment, we derive from our present study of the Torah.

The Alter Rebbe stated earlier that the purpose of the entire Hishtalshelut is the revelation of Ein Sof-light in this world, which occurs when the darkness of the kelipot of this world is transformed into the light of holiness.

But, one may ask, this revelation will take place only in the hereafter; at present the Ein Sof-light is completely hidden!

The Alter Rebbe replies that, indeed, the Messianic era constitutes the purpose for which this world was created].

It is known that the Messianic era, especially the period after the resurrection of the dead, is indeed the ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of this world. It is for this [purpose] that [this world] was originally created. *


[At first glance this statement appears strange: One would have thought that the Messianic era represents, not the purpose of creation, but the reward for man's efforts toward fulfilling that purpose. The Alter Rebbe therefore clarifies]:

The [time of] receiving the reward is essentially in the seventh millennium, as is stated in Likkutei Torah of the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory), whereas the period until then constitutes the fulfillment of the world's purpose.




  1. (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Nasso 7:1.

  2. (Back to text) Shmot 33:20.

  3. (Back to text) Sifrei, end of Parshat Behaalotecha; Bamidbar Rabbah, end of Parshat Nasso.

  4. (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita explains why the Alter Rebbe adds the words, "than its radiance in the higher worlds," and is not satisfied with simply stating that the ultimate purpose of creation is this world, "for such was His will - that He find it pleasurable...."

    In doing so the Alter Rebbe answers a well-known question. How can we possibly say that the higher worlds, which are illuminated with such a revelation of G-dliness, exist for the purpose of this world, where G-dliness is so concealed? One does not create a significant thing to serve something insignificant. The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that through the transformation of darkness into light - a form of divine service which can be achieved only in this world - the world becomes so holy that it is illuminated with a degree of G-dliness far superior to that which is manifest in the higher worlds.

  5. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 100b.

  6. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 30:20.

  7. (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original text. \em.\en.

  8. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 52:8.

  9. (Back to text) Ibid. 60:19.

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