Nazarene Space

Understanding Tanya

 Likutei Amarim Chapter 3

(Part 1)


James Scott Trimm


We read in the Tanya:


Now, each distinction and grade of the three— nefesh, ruach and neshamah— consists of ten faculties, corresponding to the Supernal Ten Sefirot (Divine manifestations), from which they have descended, which are subdivided into two, namely, the three "mothers" and the seven "multiples," to wit: chochmah (wisdom) binah (understanding) and da at (knowledge); and the "seven days of Creation:" chesed (kindness), gevurah (power), tiferet (beauty), and so on.

(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 3)


According to the Sefer Yetzirah there are ten sefirot:


Ten Sefirot of Nothingness ten and not nine ten and not eleven…

(Sefer Yetzirah 1:4)


The three upper sefirot are drawn from Exodus 31:3:


And I have filled him with the Spirit of Elohim:

in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge,

and in all manner of workmanship.

(Ex. 31:3)


And from Proverbs 24:3-4:


With wisdom a house is built, with understanding it is established,

and with knowledge its rooms are filled.

(Prov. 24:3-4)


The seven lower sefirot are drawn from 1Chron. 29:11:


Yours, O YHWH, is:the greatness, the power, and the glory and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in the earth is Yours; Yours is the Kingdom, O YHWH, And You are exalted as head above all.

 (1Chr. 29:11)


The three upper and seven lower sefirot are connected by Isaiah 11:2:


The Spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him:

The spirit of wisdom,

And understanding

The spirit of counsel

And power

The spirit of knowledge

And of the fear of YHWH.

(Is. 11:2)


Thus the Ten Sefirot are as follows:


            The Three Upper Sefirot

Da’at (knowledge) also called Keter (Crown)

Chokmah (Wisdom)

Binah (Understanding)


            The Seven Lower Sefirot

Gedulah (greatness) also known as Chesed (Mercy)

Gevurah (Power, Strength, Severity)

Tipharet (Glory, Beauty)

Netzach (Victory, Splendor)

Hod (Majesty)

Kol (the “All”) also called Yesod (Foundation)

Malkut (Kingdom, Kingship)


The Sefer Yetzirah lays these out as follows:


1:1 With thirty two wondrous paths of Wisdom engraved Yah
YHWH Tz’vaot
Elohi Yisrael
Elohim Chaim
Melek Olam
El Shaddai
And Gracious
And Exalted
He dwells forever.
His Name is Set-apart
He is Lofty and Set-apart.
And he created His world with three Sefarim (books):
With Sefer (writing- letters)
With Sefar (numbers)
And with Sippur (accounting- calculating- communication).

1:2 Ten Sefirot of nothingness
And twenty two foundation letters:
Three Mothers,
Seven Doubles,
And Twelve Simples.


The Tanya goes on to say:


Similarly is it with the human soul, which is divided in two— sechel (intellect) and middot (emotional attributes). The intellect includes chochmah, binah and da at (ChaBaD), whilst the middot are love of G-d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth. ChaBaD [the intellectual faculties] are called "mothers" and source of the middot, for the latter are "offspring" of the former.


The explanation of the matter is as follows:


The intellect of the rational soul, which is the faculty that conceives any thing, is given the appellation of chochmah—כ"ח מ"ה— the "potentiality" of "what is." When one brings forth this power from the potential into the actual, that is, when [a person] cogitates with his intellect in order to understand a thing truly and profoundly as it evolves from the concept which he has conceived in his intellect, this is called binah. These [chochmah and binah] are the very "father" and "mother" which give birth to love of G-d, and awe and dread of Him.

(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 3)


This is why, when laying tffillin, we loop the strap ten times around the arm, three around the upper arm, and seven around the lower arm.

We were created in the image of YHWH (Gen. 1:26-27) in the Torah, in Gen. 1:26, 27 where we read:

Then Elohim said, "Let Us make man in Our image,
according to Our likeness...  So Elohim created man
in His own image; in the image of Elohim He created him;
male and female He created them. 

Now following the parallelism of the passage, "Our image", "Our likeness" and "male and female" appear to be parallel terms.


These feminine and masculine attributes are represented in the Tanak by the Father (Jer. 31:9; Mal. 1:9; Is. 63:16; 64:8), the Mother (Is. 66:13 ) and the Son (Prov. 30:4; Ps. 2:2, 7, 12).


If we arrange the attributes (sefirot) under three columns according to their characteristics as Mother (feminine), Father (masculine) and Son (feminine and masculine in perfect balance) they lay out as follows:






1. Keter


3. Binah


2. chokmah

5. Gevurah


4. Chesed


6. Teferet


8. Hod


7. Natzach


9. Yesod



10. Malkut



(The Rabbinic system has “Father” and “Mother” in reversed positions from that in this chart.)


The middle column expresses the other two columns in perfect harmony. Note that attributes 1, 6, 9 and 10 make up this middle column and 1+6+9+10 = 26, which is the numerical value of YHWH.  This therefore is the invisible image of YHWH.

The “Son” is that which the Tanya refers to as the “offspring” of the Father and the Mother.  The Son is the very incarnation of the love and fear of YHWH which springs forth through Understanding the Wisdom of the Torah.


The Tanya goes on to say:


For when the intellect in the rational soul deeply contemplates and immerses itself exceedingly in the greatness of G-d, how He fills all worlds and encompasses all worlds, and in the presence of Whom everything is considered as nothing— there will be born and aroused in his mind and thought the emotion of awe for the Divine Majesty, to fear and be humble before His blessed greatness, which is without end or limit, and to have the dread of G-d in his heart. Next, his heart will glow with an intense love, like burning coals, with a passion, desire and longing, and a yearning soul, towards the greatness of the blessed En Sof. This constitutes the culminating passion of the soul, of which Scripture speaks, as "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth,.. ." and "My soul thirsteth for G-d,..." and "My soul thirsteth for Thee...." This thirst is derived from the element of Fire, which is found in the divine soul. As students of natural science affirm, and so it is in Etz Chayim, the element of Fire is in the heart, whilst the source of [the element of] Water and moisture is in the brain, which is explained in Etz Chayim, Portal 50, to refer to the faculty of chochmah, called "The water of the divine soul." The rest of the middot are all offshoots of fear and love and their derivations, as is explained elsewhere.

(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 3)


Now this is in exact agreement with the teaching of 4th Maccabees which says:


1:1 The word of philosophy that I am about to discuss before you:

If the true mind of shalom (peace) is sovereign to the fear of Elohim. I am an upright adviser to you, that you should pay earnest attention in philosophy.

1:2 For it is also necessary for all men to suffer, more especially these are steps to virtue.

1:3 For I bear a good report:

If the mind of balance is over the emotions that stand against temperance, showing that the mind of virtue rules over gluttony [and] over lust.

1:4 And it is not only over the walk, but also over the other emotions that hinder righteousness. It is shown to be sovereign, over fornication [and] evil and over other emotions that impede courage, over rage, and that a man be not soft before tribulation, and over fear.


1:13 The question therefore is this: If the mind is sovereign over emotion.

1:14 But you may ask: What is the mind? And what is emotion? And what are the kinds of emotion? And is the mind sovereign over all of them?

1:15 The mind therefore is thus: That in uprightness we choose the life of wisdom.

1:16 Now wisdom is knowledge of the hosts, of the Godhead, and of manhood and of their effects.

1:17 Now this is the discipline that is in the Torah, that through it also you learn of the Godhead greatly and of manhood to our advantage and obtaining favor.

1:18 Now the forms of wisdom are these: prudence, righteousness, [courage] and temperance.

1:19 Now the head of all of them is prudence because through it the mind rules over all emotions.


1:30 For reasoning is the leader of the virtues, but it is the sole ruler of the passions. Observe then first, through the very things which stand in the way of temperance, that reasoning is absolute ruler of the passions.

1:31 Now temperance consists of a command over the lusts.

1:32 But of the lusts, some belong to the soul, others to the body: and over each of these classes the reasoning appears to bear sway.

(4Macc. 1:4, 13-19, 30-32 HRV)


Moreover 4th Maccabees teaches that the emotions are seven in number and are derived from two: pain and pleasure, which polarize these two:


20 Of the passions, pleasure and pain are the two most comprehensive; and they also by nature refer to the soul.

21 And there are many attendant affections surrounding pleasure and pain.

22 Before pleasure is lust; and after pleasure, joy.

23 And before pain is fear; and after pain is sorrow.

24 Wrath is an affection, common to pleasure and to pain, if any one will pay attention when it comes upon him.

25 And there exists in pleasure a malicious disposition, which is the most multiform of all the affections.

26 In the soul it is arrogance, and love of money, and vain gloriousness, and contention, and faithlessness, and the evil eye .

27 In the body it is greediness and gormandizing, and solitary gluttony.

(4Macc. 1:20-27 HRV)


Thus the teaching of 4th Maccabees and that of the Tanya fit like a hand in a well fit glove. 

(Continued in Part 2)

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