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Tanya for Thursday, 11 Shevat, 5779 - January 17, 2019

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 11 Shevat

10 Shevat, 5779 - January 16, 201912 Shevat, 5779 - January 18, 2019

Chapter Twenty

[In the previous chapters the Alter Rebbe discussed the Torah's assertion that "it is very near" to us to fulfill all the commandments with a love and fear of G-d. He explained that it is indeed "very near," by means of the natural love of G-d inherent in every Jew.

He further stated that this love stems from the faculty of Chochmah of the divine soul, in which the light of the Ein Sof is clothed.

This love is the source of a Jew's power of self-sacrifice; it is what inspires every Jew, regardless of spiritual stature, to forfeit his life rather than deny G-d's unity.

In fact, were a Jew to feel that sin tears him away from G-d, he would never sin - his love of G-d and his fear of separation from Him would not permit it. It is only the "spirit of folly" inspired by the kelipah - the self-delusion that sin does not weaken his attachment to G-d - that allows him to sin.

But when he is confronted with an attempt to coerce him to practice idolatry, for example, no such delusion is possible; clearly he is being torn away from G-d.

Thereupon, a Jew's inherent love of G-d is aroused, and even the most hardened sinner willingly suffers martyrdom for his faith in the One G-d.

This same power of self-sacrifice, says the Alter Rebbe, can enable a Jew to refrain from every transgression, and to fulfill all the commandments. But if, in fact, only a clear challenge to one's faith - such as idolatry - arouses and activates one's hidden love, how can this love serve to motivate one's observance of all the commandments?

The Alter Rebbe begins to provide the answer in this chapter by explaining the relationship of all the positive commandments to the precept of belief in G-d's unity - stated in the first of the Ten Commandments: "I am G-d your L-rd," - and of all the prohibitive commandments to the prohibition of idolatry - the second commandment in the Decalogue: "You shall have no other gods ...."]

It is well known that the [positive] commandment [to believe in G-d's unity], and the admonition concerning idolatry, which form the first two commandments in the Decalogue: [1] "I am G-d ..." and "You shall have no other gods...," comprise the entire Torah.

For the commandment "I am G-d" contains all the 248 positive precepts, while the commandment "You shall have no other gods" contains all the 365 prohibitive commandments. [2]

That is why we heard only these two commandments, "I am....," and "You shall not have...," directly from G-d, [while the other eight commandments were transmitted by Moses], as our Sages have said, [3] for they are the sum total of the whole Torah.

[Thus, we actually heard the entire Torah from G-d Himself; for all the commandments are contained within these two, as are particulars within a generalization. Therefore just as one's love of G-d motivates him to obey these two commandments even at the expense of his life, it may also serve to motivate him to observe all the commandments.

However, this concept requires further clarification. Why should all the positive precepts be considered as affirmations of G-d's unity, and why should all the prohibitions be manifestations of idol-worship?

It is readily understood that belief in G-d is the basis of all the commandments. The Mechilta [1] illustrates this idea by the parable of a king who entered a land, and was requested by the populace to provide them with a system of laws.

To this the king replied: "First accept me as your king; afterwards I will issue my decrees." In the same way, belief in the One G-d constitutes the foundation upon which all the other commandments are built. But why should the two commandments regarding G-d's unity be considered the sum total of the entire Torah, all the other commandments being merely an extension of them?

The explanation is based on a deeper understanding of the concept of the unity of G-d. G-d's unity means not only that there is but one Creator, but that G-d is the only existing being.

All of existence is absolutely nullified before Him, and completely one with Him.

Therefore when one acts in defiance of G-d's Will as expressed in the commandments, he sets himself apart from G-d as though he were a separate and independent entity. This constitutes a denial of G-d's unity, and the transgressor is therefore considered an idolator.

This the Alter Rebbe now explains in detail].

In order to elucidate this matter clearly, we must first briefly speak of the idea and the essence of the unity of G-d, Who is called "One and Unique."

[I.e., we must understand the essential meaning of this phrase, which lends itself to various interpretations: that there is only one G-d, one Creator; that He is one Being, not a compound of various powers; and so on].

All believe that He is One Alone [4] [now, after creation], exactly as He was before the world was created, when He was [obviously] alone [since nothing else had yet come into being, so too now after creation, nothing exists apart from Him].

As it is written [in the prayer book]: [5] "You are He Who was before the world was created, and You are He Who is since the world was created."

[If the meaning of this passage were only that G-d is eternal, without beginning or end, it could have been stated simply: "You were before the world was created...."; why the circumlocution of "You are he, He Who was before the world was created...."?]

This [emphasis provided by the repeated phrase, "You are He who..."] means: ["You are exactly] the same `He' [before and after creation], without any change," as it is written: [6] "I, the L-rd, have not changed" [since creation]. G-d is still One alone despite the presence of myriad beings, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain.

For this world, and likewise all the supernal worlds, do not effect any change in His unity by their having been created out of a state of nothingness.

Just as G-d was One alone, single and unique, before they were created, so is He One alone, single and unique, after He created them.

[How can it be so? What of all the creatures that exist besides Him?

Yet it is so], because all is as naught beside Him, as if absolutely nonexistent.



  1. (Back to text) Shmot 20:2-3.

  2. (Back to text) See Shnei Luchot HaBrit, beg. Parshat Yitro; Zohar II, p. 276a.

  3. (Back to text) Makkot 24a.

  4. (Back to text) Liturgy of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

  5. (Back to text) Daily morning service.

  6. (Back to text) Malachi 3:6.

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