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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 9 Iyar
In this case the individual arouses compassion within himself upon his exiled soul and upon its source, the Ein Sof, and in this frame of mind he studies Torah and performs mitzvot.
This endeavor extricates his soul from its spiritual exile (whither it has been banished by his own inappropriate thoughts, words and deeds), and restores it to its source in the blessed Ein Sof.
In this chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain how very, very close it is for every Jew to reveal his hidden love of G-d.
The approach explained in this chapter is novel (as the Rebbe Shlita clarifies), inasmuch as it utilizes the Jew's very nature, thereby obviating the need for a specific manner of contemplation;
A relatively general and tangible manner of contemplation will do, as will soon be explained.
Indeed, the lower the spiritual level of the individual, the easier it is for him to awaken this hidden love a paradox that will also be explained presently.
This manner of contemplation enables a Jew to serve G-d with fiery, passionate love, leading him to excel in his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. It also enables him to overcome all obstacles, whether from within or from without, that seek to hinder his service of G-d.
Let a man think along these lines: It is in the nature of a human being that when he feels a strong emanation of love from his fellow he will respond in kind. And if the manifestation of love is showered by an exalted personage upon a very lowly individual, the responsive chord of the lowly person's love will be all the more vibrant.
In a like manner, but infinitely more so, should this obtain when a human being is enveloped by G-d's boundless love for him. Such is the case with the Jewish people. G-d showed His boundless love for His people by choosing them from all created beings, from the highest level to the lowest.
This love manifested itself by His taking them out of Egypt and bestowing the Torah and its mitzvot upon them alone. And so too does G-d show this love to every individual Jew at all times and in all places.
Such boundless love should surely awaken within a Jew an ardent reciprocal love for G-d. Moreover, just as G-d, because of His love for the Jewish people, "overcame all obstacles" which stood in the way of creating this world (as will be explained in chapter 49), so too should each Jew strive to overcome all obstacles that hinder his service of G-d].
There is yet another straight way [i.e., simple and straightforward, that is] equally applicable [and suitable] to every man, and this matter is very, very nigh, [inasmuch as the technique involved is uncomplicated] to arouse and kindle the light of the love that is implanted and concealed in his heart.
[This love is already found in the heart of every Jew in a concealed state; utilizing the approach about to be described, makes it very simple for every Jew to reveal and actualize it].
That it [the light of this love] may shine forth with its intense light, like a flaming fire, in the consciousness of the heart and mind, [ultimately enabling the person] to surrender his soul to G-d together with his body and [material] possessions.
[This being done] with all his heart, and all his soul and all his "might" - [with the boundless devotion of his soul's essence], from the depth of the heart, in absolute truth.
And especially, [i.e., a most propitious time for the person to kindle this love in such a manner is], at the time of the recital of the Shema and its blessings, as will be explained [later, on the particular connection of the Shema and its blessings to the arousal of this love].
And this [technique for revealing this love] is, to take to heart the meaning of the verse:  "`As water mirrors the face to the face, so does the heart of man to man."
This means  that as [in the case of] the likeness and features of the face which a man presents to the water, the identical face is reflected back to him from the water.
[That image mirrors not only the person's external features, but also the nuances of facial expression that signify joy, sorrow, and so on, thus revealing not only his physical state but his mental state as well].
So indeed is also the heart of a man who is loyal in his affection for another person, for this love [which he has for the other] awakens a loving response for him in the heart of his friend also, so that they come to love each other loyally,
Even the love harbored in one's heart arouses a reflected love in another, especially when he sees his friend's love for him, [freely revealed].
Such is the common nature in the character of every man, even when they are equal in status.
How much more so [is this the case] if a great and mighty king [who rules over many lands] displays his great and intense love for a commoner who is despised and lowly among men, a disgraceful creature cast on the dunghill.
The king depicted here rules not over one land but over many; his love for the person is not only harbored in the heart but is manifest; the manner of love is not ordinary but "great and intense"; and the love is shown not to an ordinary person but to a truly despicable character. The Alter Rebbe goes on to state how his love is displayed:
Yet, he [the King] king comes down to him from the place of his glory, together with all his retinue, and raises him and exalts him from his dunghill and brings him into his palace the royal palace, [and within the palace itself he leads him in the innermost chamber, a place such as no servant nor lord ever enters], and there shares with him the closest companionship with mutual embraces and kisses and attachment of "spirit to spirit," with their whole heart and soul.
"[When a mighty king shows such great affection and companionship to such a lowly person, then], how much more so will there be aroused, of itself, a doubled and redoubled love in the heart of this most common and humble individual for the person of the king,  with a true attachment of spirit, from heart and soul, from the infinite depths of his heart.
Even if his heart be like a heart of stone], and not easily roused to tender feelings of love for another, yet, in such a situation], it will surely melt and become [like] water, and his soul will pour itself out like water, with soulful longing for the love of the king.
[The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that all the details mentioned in the parable of the king are infinitely more applicable with regard to the object of the parable the relationship of G-d with each and every Jew.
For G-d, the King of kings, showed his unending love of the Jewish people by taking them out of their nethermost level, in Egypt, and exalting them to the highest of levels by giving them the Torah.
Through study of Torah and performance of mitzvot, Jews are united with G-d to the utmost possible degree. This was so not only at the time the Torah was given. But at all times, as shall soon be explained, contemplating this matter will arouse within every Jew "as water mirrors the face to the face" a parallel love of G-d].
- (Back to text) Mishlei 27:19.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita explains that by going on to say "This means..." after having quoted from Mishlei, the Alter Rebbe is expounding the verse in a manner other than its supposed simple meaning.
As stated at the opening of Mishlei, the purpose of the book is to teach "wisdom and ethics" - proper moral behavior.
This verse, then, teaches us that "as water mirrors the face...," so, too, should one person's heart respond to the other; one should not repay kindness with evil, and so on.
It goes without saying that some of the ethical exhortations of Proverbs are easier to fulfill than others. Accordingly, this verse cannot serve to buttress that which is being taught here in Tanya - that G-d's love of Jews should arouse a similar response within each and every Jew.
The Alter Rebbe therefore does not interpret the verse to mean that "so should be the heart of man to man," but that "so is the heart of man to man." King Solomon is not exhorting: he is merely stating an established fact; just as the nature of water is to reflect an image, so, too, is it in man's nature to mirror the emotion of another. To accomplish this, one need not labor at all; one has but to recognize and consider the fact that his friend is showing him love. He will then immediately be filled with love in return.
However, according to the interpretation of the Alter Rebbe, what is the verse teaching us? And teach us it must, for as mentioned above the purpose of Mishlei is to instruct the reader in proper conduct, and not merely to state truisms.
The lesson may be, proposes the Rebbe Shlita, as follows: Since it is indeed a fact that "love reflects love," one should make an effort to love his fellow abundantly, thereby ensuring that he, in turn, will reflect this love towards himself.
Even if the other person may hate him for the moment, still, by being shown love, he will eventually become aware of it; his hatred will wither, and be replaced by love.
In the epistle to his chassidim upon his release from Petersburg (entitled Katonti, and appearing in Iggeret HaKodesh as Epistle 2), the Alter Rebbe exhorts them likewise "not to become haughty-minded in relation to their brethren nor to speak defiantly against them.
Rather, they are to subdue their spirit and heart before everyone.... And, perhaps, through all that, G-d will put it into the heart of their brethren that as water [reflects] the face...."
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes that according to the explanation provided in the previous note it becomes abundantly clear how the arousal of love in this manner is not only suitable to all, but is also "very nigh indeed."
Inasmuch as it is within the nature of man to mirror love, the arousal of such love is an approach "suitable for all." This is true even when both parties are on the same level. Furthermore, it is "very nigh," for in the analogue of G-d's love for the Jewish people, the two are on entirely different levels. His love for them is similar to the love that a great king showers upon a most coarse commoner. This provides all the more reason for the king's love to evoke a similar response in the heart of the commoner.
Additionally, not only is it "very nigh," but it is "very nigh indeed."
For this love is unique in that the lower the level of the person upon whom the love is showered, the more it evokes a reciprocal love. Thus, G-d's love for insignificant man should arouse within him an intense love for G-d in return.
This is alluded to by the Alter Rebbe when he enumerates the various levels in his analogy. For even when two people are on the same plane, love will mirror love. How much more so when the love is shown by
- "a king"; moreover,
- "a great king"; furthermore,
- "a great and mighty king."
Surely, then, the recipient will reciprocate this love.
The person to whom the love is shown is also described in a number of ways. Not only is he unlike the king: he is also
- "a commoner"; moreover,
- he is "despised"; furthermore,
- he is "lowly among men," and so on.
At any rate, the lower the person's spiritual level and the feebler his comprehension, the greater should be his impetus to arouse this form of love within himself. It is therefore "very nigh indeed" for people to arouse their love of G-d when they become cognizant of His love for them.
This, then, is what is novel in this chapter of Tanya. The previous chapters informed us that even a person of lowly spiritual stature may nevertheless attain a love for G-d. In this chapter the Alter Rebbe explains that quite the opposite is the case: the very lowliness of the individual serves as an impetus to his attainment of a love for G-d; the lower he is, the greater his ability to arouse it within himself. Moreover, this love may be achieved by all for it requires only awareness, not contemplation.
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