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Tanya for Thursday, 30 Cheshvan, 5783 - November 24, 2022

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya For 30 Cheshvan

29 Cheshvan, 5783 - November 23, 20221 Kislev, 5783 - November 25, 2022

Now, invalid prayer is superior to Torah studied with a distinctly improper intention, for [the latter] is "under the sun," [since if it is undertaken for the purpose of self-aggrandizement it does not ascend at all], while prayer - [even "invalid prayer]" - is "into the heaven," [albeit the lowest heaven].

But the neutral study of Torah, that is without a negative intention, but is prompted merely by one's latent, innate love, is not inferior to the "breath of the mouths of school children," which ascends aloft because it is "breath untainted by sin." [15]

[For unconsciously, it is this love of G-d that motivates even one's merely habitual study of the Torah.]

This [breath] ascends aloft, even though it may be emphatically not altruistic, but only prompted by fear of punishment by the teacher.

[In the same way, an adult whose study is of neutral intent is not tainted by sin (which it would be if he had studied for an ulterior motive). It therefore ascends heavenward.]

See there on p. 255b, [where the Zohar states] that the angels elevate the breath of school children to Atzilut.


[In its primary meaning, the term "breath untainted by sin" signifies that the breath of the Torah study of schoolchildren is untainted because it proceeds from individuals who at this age are incapable of sin.

As the Gemara states in Shabbat, [15] "Resh Lakish said in the name of R. Yehudah Nesiah, `The world exists solely by virtue of the breath of the mouths of schoolchildren [who study Torah].'

Said R. Papa to Abbaye: `And what of my Torah study and yours?'

He replied: `There is no comparison between breath that knows sin and breath that is free of sin.'"

This means that children are not in the category of those who sin.

The Previous Rebbe once recalled [16] that when his father, the Rebbe Rashab, taught him the above text, he first explained that the angels' elevation of the Torah study of these children to Atzilut, as cited above from the Zohar by the Alter Rebbe, relates to the same rarefied level as the Supernal Unions that are accomplished by those who refine their bodies according to the secrets of the Kabbalah.

The Rebbe Rashab then added that the Alter Rebbe's emphasis that this study comprised "breath untainted by sin" can be explained as follows:

This is the breath of Torah words spoken by little children in artless simplicity.

When they say, for example, "Kametz Alef: Ah," and they believe with a simple and ingrained faith that these and likewise all the other vowels and consonants of the Torah were transmitted to Moses on Sinai, then the very breath that emanates from their hearts is utterly pure, and untainted by sin.

(This commentary, continued the Rebbe Rashab, comes as an addition to the plain and primary meaning of "breath untainted by sin" - that these children are still pure from the taint of sin.)

Moreover, the above interpretation of breath being untainted by sin inasmuch as it emanates from uttering words of Torah with simple faith, applies not only to children, but to adults as well.

They, too, can effect sublime Supernal Unions.

The Rebbe Rashab based this interpretation on a story he heard from the Baal Shem Tov when he visited his holy resting place at Mezhibuzh.

At that time, the Baal Shem Tov related, that on his 16th birthday (18 Elul, 5474/1714) he had found himself in a small village.

The local innkeeper was a very simple person who hardly knew how to read the prayers, let alone understand what they meant.

He was, however, a very G-d-fearing individual.

On all matters and at all times he would quote the same phrase in the Holy Tongue, "Blessed be He; may He be blessed forever."

His wife too, would always say in Yiddish, "Praised be His holy Name."

That day, in accordance with the age-old custom of meditating in solitude for some time on one's birthday, the Baal Shem Tov went off by himself to the fields.

He recited chapters of Tehillim and engaged in unifying the Divine Names that emanate from its holy verses.

"As I was immersed in this," the Baal Shem Tov related, "and unaware of my surroundings, I suddenly saw Elijah the Prophet.

There was a smile on his lips.

I was taken aback.

For when I had been with the tzaddik R. Meir, and also when I had been in the company of the hidden tzaddikim, I had merited to see Elijah, but this was the first time that I had merited his appearance while all alone.

I wondered about it.

And besides, why was he smiling?

"Elijah said to me: `You are toiling so mightily to have the proper mystical intentions in bringing about the Supernal Unions of the Divine Names that emanate from the verses of Tehillim. And Aharon Shlomo the innkeeper and his wife Zlata Rivkah know nothing of the Unifications that result from his `Blessed be He; may He be blessed forever,' and from her `Praised be His holy Name.' Yet the Divine harmonies they create resonate in all the heavens more than all the Unifications of the Holy Name that are effected by the mystical intentions of the greatest tzaddikim."

"Elijah described to me," continued the Baal Shem Tov, "the great pleasure, as it were, that results in heaven from the words of praise and adoration uttered by men, women and children. Especially so, when they come from the mouths of simple folk. And most especially, when these praises are offered consistently, for then these people are constantly united with G-d in pure faith and with an undivided heart."

Having recounted this episode, the Rebbe Rashab added, that it served as the basis for his additional interpretation of "breath untainted by sin" - that it applies not only to children but also to adults who act with pure faith and heartfelt simplicity, and who are thereby constantly united with G-d, at all times and in all places.

The Rebbe Shlita stresses, that this applies equally to adults only with respect to effecting Supernal Unions.

With regard to maintaining the world's existence, however, it is clear from the above-quoted teaching in Shabbat that this is accomplished only by the "breath of the mouths of schoolchildren," for this breath possesses as well the first quality of "breath untainted by sin": it proceeds from those for whom sin is a virtual impossibility.

With regard to the refinement of the world, this is accomplished by those adults to whom the second exposition of "breath untainted by sin" applies - that the breath itself is untainted.

In a sense, indeed, their breath has an even greater effect than the "breath of the mouths of schoolchildren."

For as the Rebbe Rashab further explains, children do not relate to the corporeality of this world, but only to its atmosphere.

Since adults have a relationship with the corporeality of this world as well, the Supernal Unions that they effect refine its very crassness and corporeality.



  1. (Back to text) Shabbat 119b; see also the Addendum.

  2. (Back to text) Sefer HaSichot 5703, p. 163ff.

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