Tanya for Thursday, 25 Adar II, 5784 - April 4, 2024

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 25 Adar II

24 Adar II, 5784 - April 3, 202426 Adar II, 5784 - April 5, 2024

It is not that attachment of man's thought and intellect to G-d is intrinsically superior to attachment through the actual, practical fulfillment of the mitzvot dependent on action - for as will be explained further on [the unity with G-d achieved by performance of mitzvot, it is described in the same terms as the unity of husband and wife - "kiddushin", as we say in the blessing preceding the fulfillment of a mitzvah: "...G-d,... Who sanctified us (kidshanu) with His commandments...."

Naturally, man cannot attain this degree of unity with G-d by his own efforts. It is only by G-d's kindness in charging us with the mitzvot that we become united with Him thereby.

Obviously, the quality of man's attachment to G-d through kavanah cannot surpass that of the performance of mitzvot, which possesses the G-d-given ability to unite man with Him.

Where, then, lies the superiority of kavanah over actual performance of mitzvot (described earlier as paralleling the superiority of soul over body)?

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that, like the actual mitzvot themselves, man's kavanah in performing them expresses G-d's Will.

It is the illumination of Divine Will contained in kavanah that is superior. In the Alter Rebbe's words]:

Rather [kavanah is superior] because this, too, is G-d's Will - that one attach himself to Him by intellect and thought, and [by] the kavanah of the active mitzvot, and by one's kavanah during the recital of Shema, and in prayer and other blessings.

And the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in this kavanah is infinitely greater and loftier than the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in the performance of the mitzvot themselves, in action and speech, without kavanah.

This [superiority of kavanah is] similar to the superiority of the light of the soul over the body, which is a vessel and garment for the soul - just as the body of the actual mitzvah is a vessel and garment for its kavanah.

[For this reason, then, the performance of a mitzvah is likened to a body, and its kavanah to a soul].

True, although both the actual mitzvah and its kavanah contain the same [Supernal] Will, which is perfectly simple, i.e., changeless and indivisible [so that it cannot be said that kavanah contains "more" of G-d's Will and performance contains "less"], and [this Will] is united with G-d's essence and being in perfect unity, nevertheless, the illumination of the Supernal Will in one's soul is different in terms of its contraction and expansion. *

[In the performance of a mitzvah this illumination is in a state of "contraction"; one's attachment to G-d's Will is not readily apparent.

In the kavanah, however, the illumination is in a state of "expansion" and revelation in one's soul: here, clearly, one's thought and intellect are attached to G-d].


[In the note which follows, the Alter Rebbe traces the difference between mitzvot and their kavanah to their source in the Supernal Sefirot.

Each Sefirah consists of an or, a "light", and a keli, a vessel or receptacle for the or.

The kelim of the Sefirot have a well-defined character: one is Chochmah, another Binah, and so forth. The orot, however, are G-dly energy, "simple" in the sense that they are devoid of definition, unlimited, and not restricted to any specific character.

Restated, this means that kelim are "contracted" and limited, while "orot" are "expanded" and unconfined - the very traits that differentiate between mitzvot and their kavanah].

It is also so explained in Etz Chayim that kavanah in mitzvot and in Torah study is on the level of "light", while the "body" i.e., performance of the mitzvot is the level and category of "vessels".

These [vessels] represent "contraction", for it is through contraction of the light that the vessels came into being, as is known to those familiar with the Kabbalah (lit., "esoteric wisdom").

[Similarly, the difference between mitzvot and their kavanah is one of contraction and expansion respectively, as explained above].


[The Alter Rebbe now expands the analogy of body and soul to mitzvot and kavanah.

He states that just as in the analogy all existence is classified into four categories, with two of them (mineral and vegetable) belonging in turn to the broader category of "body-beings", and (the other) two (animal and man) to the broader category of "soul-beings", so it is also with regard to mitzvot and kavanah.

The Alter Rebbe now resumes the thought intercepted by the above Note].

They, too [the mitzvot and their kavanah], are differentiated into four levels.

For the "body" of the mitzvot themselves comprises two levels, namely, mitzvot consisting of real action (as opposed to speech, which is merely "regarded as action"), and mitzvot performed with speech and thought, such as Torah study, reciting the Shema, praying, saying the grace after meals, and other blessings.

[Both these levels - (a) action, and (b) thought and speech - are subdivisions of the category of the "body" of mitzvot.

The kavanah of mitzvot, [i.e., one's intention] to attach oneself to G-d [by performing the mitzvah], this (the kavanah) being like a soul for the body [of the mitzvah], is likewise divided into two levels - corresponding to the two levels of soul found in material bodies, namely (a) in animals, and (b) in man.

[The Alter Rebbe now goes on to discuss two levels in kavanah, the higher one of which is comparable to the soul of man, and the lower to the soul of animals].