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Chumash-Vayishlach     Iggeret HaKodesh-Epistle 2

(Vol 15, XV Pg. 274)


(5736) Merging of the two explanations (Aggadah Bereshit Chap. 45 and Rashi) in the verse (Gen. 32:11): "for with my staff"

Explanation of Iggeret HaKodesh (Epistle 2) d.h. Katonti concerning the characteristic of humility of Jacob



1. On the verse (Gen. 32:11):

“I have become small from all the kindnesses . . for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have (become two camps).”

There are two opposite explanations:

  1. The simple explanation (as the Targum and Rashi, in his first comment, and others explain) that Yaakov crossed the Jordan without anything except his “staff” –

Which according to this explanation, it comes out that the words “for with my staff I crossed this Jordan” convey (not the kindnesses which G-d did with Yaakov, but, on the contrary) the physical poor state of Yaakov Avinu when he crossed the Jordan. It is a preface which, all the more, emphasizes the greatness of the later kindness of “and now I have become two camps”, which is stated in the continuation of the verse.

  1. The explanation of the Midrash (which is cited in Rashi) that,

“He placed his staff into the Jordan, and the Jordan split”.

According to this explanation, the words, “for with my staff I crossed” themselves contain an aspect of G-d’s kindness.

These explanations are completely opposite:

  • According to the first explanation it refers to utter poverty
  • Whereas according to the second explanation – it shows that he was fitting for a great miracle. Like the words of the Sages: “How greater is this man than Moshe and the six hundred thousand for whom, the waters of the Red Sea parted.”

2. To understand the connection between the two explanations,

(for, as has been mentioned many times, all the explanations of the same word, verse, or aspect, have a connecting theme between them)

and specifically since, in the Aggadah of Bereshit they follow one another, one must preface the wording of the Alter Rebbe in his well know epistle “Katonti”:

(Which he wrote while returning from Peterburg after the Geulah of Yud-Tes Kislev)

“(This was so,) because Jacob regarded himself as utterly insignificant in his eyes due to the multitude of (G-d’s) favors, (as he said,) “for (only) with my staff etc.”

  'מפני היות קטן יעקב במאד מאד בעיניו מחמת ריבוי החסדים כי במקלי כו   

(Such are his words for our purposes)

Seemingly, it is not understood:

Since the Alter Rebbe wants to emphasize (באטאנען) the “multitude of kindnesses” which G-d bestowed on Yaakov (which caused him to call out “Katonti”), he should have also (and on the contrary – primarily) brought the conclusion of the verse,

“for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps”?

Seemingly, one could learn that with “for with my staff etc.”, the Alter Rebbe means to indicate the aforementioned explanation of the Midrash,

“He placed his staff into the Jordan, and the Jordan split”.

However, one cannot say so, for:

  1. It still remains completely problematic. Why does the Alter Rebbe also not mention the second kindness which is stated clearly in the verse,

“and now I have become two camps”

  1. Mainly, if the Alter Rebbe is referring, with the proof of the verse, to the miracle (“the Jordan split”), he should have, because of this itself, brought the continuation of the verse, “I crossed this Jordan”, in which it alludes to the miracle which occurred with “my staff”?

One cannot say that the Alter Rebbe indeed means the entire verse, yet to be concise, he cites just the beginning of the verse, and he just alludes to the conclusion of the verse with the word “etc./”Chulu”) () for:

  1. He should have at least after this, the one word “I crossed” (עברתי)
  2. If this is so, then, as explained once at length, it should have stated “vchulu” (with an additional “vav”). For when it states “chulu” (without a “vav”), it shows that the continuation of the verse is not related to the theme of the subject. (and, the word “chulu” (or “gomer”/גו׳״ “) is just stated to forewarn that which the Sages state that “any verse that Moshe did not divide, we may not divide”.

From all this it is understood that the aspect of “for with my staff”, alone, without the aspects which are in the continuation of the verse, is sufficient to effect within Yaakov to state, “Katonti”.

3. The Tzemach Tzedek cites, in Or HaTorah, from the Shaloh that the word “for with my staff” (כי במקלי) is an acronym of “Blessed is the glory of the L-rd from His place", “For Your salvation, I hope, O L-rd!”.

And the Tzemach Tzedek adds:

“This refers to what is explained in Torah Or etc. regarding the aspect of,

“Judgment and righteousness You made in Jacob” (משפט וצדקה).

There needs to be both levels “Tzedaka” and “judgment” and these are the two levels,

  • “Blessed is the glory of the L-rd from His place"  (ברוך כבוד ה׳ ממקומו) , and
  • “For Your salvation, I hope, O L-rd!”  “לישועתך קויתי ה׳”.

The explanation of this is:

It is understood from the verse,

“Judgment and righteousness You made in Jacob”

that Yaakov possessed both characteristics. And the conduct with him was also - both with judgement and Tzedaka, even though seemingly they are opposites:

  • “Mishpat/ Judgment” means that what one demands is owed to him by law (עײפ דין)
  • “Tzedaka/ righteousness” means that according to law and judgement (עײפ דין ומשפט), one is not obligated to give, rather he is given as a form of Tzedaka.

Seemingly, one could say that this corresponds to the two separate levels:

  • From the perspective of the soul, a Yid can demand his needs (מאנען) from G-d according to right (“Mishpat”). The soul receives its aspects according to law.
  • Whereas regarding the body, he can only request this as Tzedaka.

However, this is not conclusive. For the verse states,

“Judgment and righteousness You made in Jacob”

This means that both (opposite) Middot are (related to the same scope – world – of) “You made” – actual deed (עשי׳ בפועל).

The reasoning of this is:

Even when is at the level where he can rightfully demand the effluence of good, from G-d, by law (דין) – as the Talmud states on the verse,

“Hear Me, stout-hearted who are far from charity” (Is. 46:12)”


“The entire world is sustained by G-d’s charity, while (the righteous) are sustained by force”

Nevertheless, one must request this as Tzedaka as it states,

“To You, O L-rd, is the righteousness”

4. This is also the reason for Yaakov’s fear of Esau, although he already had G-d’s promise,

(As it states, “Behold, I am with you etc.”.

For, although it is indeed true that he was afraid, as it states, “perhaps I have become sullied with sin”, this itself requires explanation:

The Sages state,

“Once most of a person’s years have passed and he did not sin, he will never sin”.

Therefore, this obligates that Yaakov already did not have to fear that “perhaps I have become sullied with sin”, since “most of his years” had passed?

However, all this is only when one’s self has importance (זיין מציאות פארנעמט ביי אים אן ארט).

Therefore, this accounting can bring the conclusion that since “most of his years have passed” and he has not sinned. Therefore, he is promised that “he will never sin”. In addition, if he is from the “stout-hearted” (אבירי לב), he can demand “with force” (בזרוע) for he deserves it according to law (ע״פ משפט).

However, when one stands with consummate bitul, where he feels that he has no self then due to this feeling of smallness and bitul he “feels in his eyes that he has sinned”. He is concerned that there is a sin, or at least a deficiency (חסרון) in his Avodah. Therefore, he feels that the effluence of good can only be attained through Tzedaka.

5. However, it is not understood:

Since Yaakov’s bitul, brought him to the manner of Tzedaka, why does it state, “Judgment and righteousness in Jacob etc.” which implies from this that

(Yaakov possessed this, and therefore)

there must also be the manner of “Mishpat”?

The explanation of this is:

When one is truly (or it appears to him that he is) in a condition where his request from G-d is only in a manner of Tzedaka. The request of Tzedaka is not a proof of bitul, since he has no other choice.

On a deeper level:

This is according to his (self-abnegated) being and level and boundary. (דאס איז לויט זיין (ביטול־דיקער) מציאות ומדידה והגבלה)

Therefore, measure for measure (מדה כנגד מדה) the effluence from Above comes according to the measure and boundaries that are in Tzedaka.

As the Talmud states that the obligation of Tzedaka is to provide him “sufficient for his deficiency in that which is deficient for him”. However, “you are not commanded to make him wealthy”. One gives that which is lacking according to his “condition” (מציאות) where he is standing (this can be a great abundance. However, it is “measured according to his norm. If his norm is to have a horse to ride on and servants to run before him, one must also give this to him). However, you are not commanded to make him wealthy.

However, when one is in a condition and state where he deserves (ווערט) receiving this effluence and therefore, can demand this as a law of “Mishpat”. Yet, he comes to G-d (not with the demand of “Mishpat”, but rather) with a request of Tzedaka, this is a proof that he has gone out of accountings, measures and boundaries (חשבונות מדידות והגבלות). He has gone out of his being (ער איז ארויס פון זיין מציאות).

Therefore, the effluence of Tzedaka is in a manner that is above limitation and boundary, and which is not connected with his being and “needs that are lacking”.

6. These two levels:

  1. A condition of asking in the form of Tzedaka
  2. A condition of a “stout-hearted” (אבירי לב), who can demand “with force” (בזרוע), yet nevertheless asks as Tzedaka, which then makes the Tzedaka in a manner that it is unlimited (בלי גבול)

Correspond to the two aspects:

  • “For Your salvation, I hope, O L-rd!”  “לישועתך קויתי ה׳”, and
  • “Blessed is the glory of the L-rd from His place"  (ברוך כבוד ה׳ ממקומו)

“For Your salvation, I hope, O L-rd!” “לישועתך קויתי ה׳” means that he can only rely on G-d’s salvation, since he is not fitting to have a claim. Therefore hopes for G-d’s salvation - as Tzedaka

“Blessed is the glory of the L-rd from His place"  (ברוך כבוד ה׳ ממקומו) depicts the drawing down of G-d’s glory which is taken from “His place” – the true place of “G-d’s glory”. This is drawn down (“blessed/baruch” an expression of drawing down (המשכה)) until the lowest levels. This means the drawing down of the infinite (בלי גבול) below, which is accomplished through the bitul of the being of “stout-hearted who are far from charity”.

7. According all of the aforementioned, that which the Alter Rebbe writes,

“(This was so,) because Jacob regarded himself as utterly insignificant in his eyes due to the multitude of (G-d’s) favors, (as he said,) “for (only) with my staff etc.”

 (and does not cite the continuation and conclusion of the verse)

is understood.

Since Yaakov possessed both of the opposite levels of “Judgement and Tzedaka”, which are alluded to in “for with my staff”, as aforementioned, he attained the level where all the effluences are on the level of “kindnesses” and an “abundance of kindnesses”.

This effluence is in a manner of “Blessed is the glory of the L-rd from His place” – an abundance of kindnesses that are in an infinite level (בלי גבול)

In addition, from that which this increase and “abundant kindnesses” were attained by him as a result of “for with my staff”, this very “state of G-d actually bringing him close” within him brought the “smallness/Katonti”, with the epitome of completeness - “utterly insignificant”.

This is also why the Alter Rebbe continues, that since,

“Because Jacob regarded himself as utterly insignificant on account of the multitude of (G-d’s) favors (as he said,) “for (only) with my staff etc.”


“He considered himself as being utterly unfit and unworthy to be saved, etc. As our Sages, of blessed memory, expressed it, “(Jacob was apprehensive) lest sin would cause (him not to be saved),”for it appeared to him that he had sinned”.

Since Yaakov stood with consummate bitul, he attained (דערלאנגט) the very level where the being (and automatically the) Avodah of created beings are insignificant (פארנעמען בא זיי ניט קיין ארט).

Therefore, it “appeared to him that he had sinned”. He stood in a state of “sin”” (from the word) “lacking” (חסרון) and utter bitul. Moreover, his Avodah did not have any significance (תפיסת מקום).

8. This is also the connection between the two explanations on the word “for with my staff”:

(The simple explanation “I had with me . . only my staff itself.”, and the explanation of the Midrash, “He placed his staff into the Jordan, and the Jordan split”).

For the two explanations depict the two opposite motions which were in Yaakov:

  • On one side, he had nothing and he requested G-d just in terms of Tzedaka.
  • On the other hand, he stood in such a lofty level, so much so that he merited miraclulous conduct of “splitting the Jordan”, which this itself shows that he is fitting to have the effluence of kindnesses, in the manner of “Mishpat”.

This “Judgment and righteousness You made in Jacob” which caused that the level of “katonti” should be with consummate completeness – was the preface and preparation that his prayer,

“deliver me . . You said . . I will make your seed (as numerous) as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of multitude”

should be fulfilled.

9. The lesson from this in the Avodah of each and every person is:

It is known that every Yid has, as an inheritance, a semblance of the “Avodot” (services) that the Patriarchs possessed. (For “One may only call three people Patriarchs”).

From this it is understood, in our case:

Not only is every Yid fitting to ask from G-d, the effluence of kindness as “Tzedaka”. But, he also merits to receive it as the right of “Mishpat”.

For since “all Yisroel are the descendants of kings”, Therefore, (as the Rebbe Rayatz, once said) the smallest bother (טירחא הכי קלה) of a Yid is considered back-breaking labor (עבודת פרך). Therefore, because of this, he can demand of G-d all the wealth of the world, in abundant children, life, and livelihood (כל הון דעלמא בבני חייא ומזוני רוויחי)

As the Alter Rebbe states in Torah Or. That if, Nebuchadnezzar, who stepped three paces for G-d’s honor, was given kingship etc. for three generations – certainly, how much more so, is this for Yidden, as it states, “There is no person of Yisroel who did not honor G-d with this”

Therefore, “all the good of this world is fitting for him”.

Although we see that a Yid has afflictions (יסורים) in this world. This is just “to squeeze the person to subdue and reduce his coarse spirit”. (לבטש את האדם להכניעו ולהשפיל גסות רוחו)

When, however, a Yid stands at the level of “Judgement and Tzedaka”, then even though he merits this as a right of “Mishpat”, nevertheless, he asks of G-d, as Tzedaka – which shows the motion of bitul and lowliness, as aforementioned – then G-d’s blessings are drawn down from His place

Success (הצלחה) above all boundary and measure, is drawn into all his aspects – in “children, life, and livelihood” in a manner of “abundance”. In addition, all the things that disturb him (המבלבלים) are nullified so he may “dwell in tranquility in this world”.

10. This is also the connected from these very aspects to the Geulah of the Alter Rebbe:

The Alter Rebbe, had Mesirat Nefesh for the dissemination of Pnimiyut HaTorah. He tore himself from his own aspects in order to spread Torat HaChassidut, so much so that it was outward (אין חוצה). It is certain that he could have demanded his deliverance as a right of law and judgment. Yet he asked this in terms of Tzedaka, as he elaborated in his letters. Namely that his Geulah was G-d’s kindnesses which “He has done wonders and made Himself great in the land” (הפליא והגדיל ה׳ לעשות בארץ).

Therefore, he brought about, that the Geulah should be in a manner of “He redeemed my soul in peace”. Namely, that all the opposition against Torat HaChassidut should be nullified. And on the contrary, that they “stand” (עמדו) and in a manner of “peace”, as the verse concludes “because of the many (people who) were with me”.

MSichas Yud-Tes Kislev 5727

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