This letter is addressed to R. Yitzchak Dubov, a schochet from Manchester, England, and one of the leading chassidim in that country.

B”H, 19 Elul, 5705, Brooklyn

Greetings and blessings,

I received your letter quite long ago and ask your forgiveness for not responding earlier, because of the many concerns that beset me. [Therefore] I am responding now. In my humble opinion, some of the points I made1 were not required to respond to your question specifically, but to fit the style of the Kovetz2which is intended for those who have merely a superficial knowledge of Chassidus. Would you be so good as to acknowledge receipt of this letter. It is surprising that you do not participate in the Shalom Achim forum [in the Kovetz].

You will receive a report concerning everything that is transpiring here from our friend, R. [Nissan] Mindel.3

With greetings to all members of the chassidic brotherhood, I conclude with blessings for a kesivah vachasimah tovah, [andwith the blessing,] “Immediately to teshuvah; immediately to Redemption,”

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director

A question:4 Torah Or (written by the Alter Rebbe), Parshas Shmos, the maamar entitled Vayomer Havayah Elav, sec. 6, states:

The blessing recited over a mitzvah draws down an or makkif (encompassing light),5 while the mitzvah itself draws down an or p’nimi (inner light).... For this reason, there is a difference of opinion among the Sephardic and Ashkenazic [halachic authorities] (Tur; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25:5 and commentaries) whether a special blessing is recited for the head tefillin, for the encompassing light drawn down by the head tefillin is very high. Hence, it is Sephardic custom not to recite a blessing, for they maintain that it is impossible to draw down this encompassing light.... The Ashkenazic [authorities] maintain that [the light] can be drawn down].

Clarification is necessary. For according to the above, how can one explain the ruling that if one speaks between putting on the arm tefillin and the head tefillin, one must recite a blessing over the head tefillin? If it is impossible to draw down this encompassing light, it should remain impossible to recite a blessing even if one speaks.

R. Yitzchak Dubov, Manchester, England

* * *

The reply: The resolution to this question can be understood by prefacing an additional explanation of the difference of opinion between Sephardic and Ashkenazic authorities. On the surface, it is possible to explain that the Ashkenazim maintain that one should recite a blessing over the head tefillin, and in this manner, they draw down the encompassing light. The Sephardim, by contrast, maintain that it is not within our capacity to draw down the encompassing light. Therefore a blessing should not be recited, for the encompassing light is not drawn down.

However, this is not true. Even the Sephardim [agree that] the encompassing light is drawn down. They maintain, however, that it is not within the potential of mortals to draw it down. Instead, it is drawn down on its own initiative, through an arousal from above. For it is such a sublime light that an arousal from below cannot reach it. The Ashkenazim maintain that an arousal from below can reach the place of this encompassing light. Therefore they require a blessing.

This concept is explicitly stated in Shaar HaKavannos (Derushei Tefillas HaShachar, Derush 2):

Through the head tefillin, the world of Atzilus is corrected. Nevertheless, with regard to the blessing (for the head tefillin), there is a difference of opinion. There is one view that maintains that even in the realm of Atzilus, we must — through our deeds — draw down its encompassing light. Therefore we must recite a blessing over the head tefillin to make the encompassing light [relevant] to us. The other view maintains that the encompassing light for the world of Atzilus... cannot be generated by ourselves. It is drawn down on its own initiative, because we do not have the potential to draw it down.

Additional explanation is found in Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar HaTefillah, ch. 5:

Through the head tefillin, the external dimensions of the three low levels of Atzilus6(are corrected). For their internal dimensions do not require correction at all. For the kelipos do not have a point of attachment even to the inner dimension of Beriah. Similarly, the encompassing light of these external dimensions need not be corrected and is instead generated on its own initiative. Therefore it is not necessary to recite a blessing over them. There are, however, authorities who differ and maintain that a blessing should also be recited over the head tefillin, so that we draw down the encompassing light. This is within our potential.

It is possible to explain that these three concepts are interdependent. When we have the potential to draw down light and influence, the deeds of mortals are significant and are of consequence on that level. And since good deeds are of positive consequence, bad deeds — sins and transgressions — [also have an effect], drawing down influence to the place of evil, providing nurture for the external forces. A lack of deed causes a lack of influence.

There are two types of influence that result from an arousal from above on its own initiative:

a) Influence that results from an arousal from above on its own initiative that is drawn down in all places, whether they are appropriate or inappropriate. For example, thoughts of teshuvah that occur to a person without any meditation or preparation on his part. They occur even to a wicked person.

b) Influence that results from an arousal from above on its own initiative, but is drawn down only to a perfect place. [The recipient’s] perfection does not compel the influence to be drawn down (as, to refer to the subject at hand, reciting a blessing over the arm tefillin compels, as it were, the encompassing light of the world of Beriah [to be drawn down to the lower realms]). Instead, the intent is that the perfection is necessary to make it possible for the influence to come. When it comes, however, it comes as a gift, not because it is imperative that it come.7

To cite a parallel to this concept: Rambam’s understanding of the concept of prophecy. He writes (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:4-5):

All of the prophets would not prophesy whenever they desired. Instead, they would focus their minds... remain in solitude... seeking prophecy.... Even though they would focus their minds, [they were not certain they would be granted prophecy]. Sometimes the Divine Presence would rest upon them and sometimes it would not.8

Although the encompassing light of Atzilus is drawn down on its own initiative according to the Sephardim, it is not drawn down unless a Jew puts on the head tefillin. This indicates that the influence is of the second type, the sort that is drawn down only to a perfect place.

It is evident that the perfection that enables the encompassing light to rest upon [the recipient] must have a connection [to that light]. For it is the medium that enables the encompassing light to rest. (As [explained] with regard to prophecy, it was necessary [for a prophet] to focus his mind, remain in seclusion, and seek prophecy.)

[This is accomplished] by reciting the blessing on the arm tefillin. In this manner, the person draws down the encompassing light of the world of Beriah (as stated in the writings of the AriZal, loc. cit.) which is close to the world of Atzilus. ([This resembles] the focusing of his mind and remaining in seclusion.) And when [reciting] the blessing [on the arm tefillin], he also has in mind the head tefillin, i.e., that the encompassing light of the world of Beriah should prepare for the resting of the encompassing light of Atzilus (resembling the seeking of prophecy). All of this is a semblance and is related to the encompassing light of Atzilus which is afterwards drawn down on its own initiative.

The above applies when one did not speak between putting on the arm tefillin and the head tefillin. If, however, one spoke between the two — or one possesses only the head tefillin — one lacks this perfection. In such circumstances, one must recite a blessing over the head tefillin. The intent is not that one is compelling the encompassing light of Atzilus to descend, because according to the Sephardim, this is not within our potential. Instead, the intent is that the blessing creates a state of perfection that allows the encompassing light to rest.