Friday, January 20, 2006

LESSONS IN TANYA: Shabbat, January 21, 2006


Due to Shabbat observance, the Shabbat edition of Lessons In Tanya is sent on Friday. Shabbat Shalom!

Tevet 21, 5766 * January 21, 2006


Today's Lesson:

Likutei Amarim
Chapter Fourteen

[In previous chapters the Alter Rebbe explained that though the
Beinoni is unsullied by sin in thought, speech or action, the
internal evil of his animal soul remains strong enough to desire evil.

That these desires do not find any practical expression is due only
to the divine soul's restraining them, with the aid given it by the
Almighty. The Alter Rebbe now continues]:

Now, the rank of Beinoni is one that is attainable by every man;
each person should strive after it [if he has not yet attained it,
and should not think it beyond his reach], for every person can,
at any time or hour, be a Beinoni, because a Beinoni does not abhor
evil; [unlike the tzaddik, he does not find worldly pleasures
revolting and loathsome].

For this is a matter entrusted to the heart, [and as explained
earlier, the Beinoni has yet to conquer (the evil in) his heart;
consequently, he does not loathe evil].

Also, not all times are alike. [There are times - such as during
prayer - when one's heart is open and receptive; at such time he
may evoke a loathing towards evil. At other times the heart may
be "blocked" and spiritually insensitive, and one is incapable of
loathing evil.

Inasmuch as the Beinoni's attitude towards evil varies, while his
status of Beinoni remains constant, it is understood that loathing
evil is not the measure of the Beinoni.

Rather, the task of the Beinoni is] only to "turn away from evil
and do good," in actual practice - in deed, speech and thought.

In these matters, [as opposed to "matters of the heart]," every man
is given the choice, ability and freedom to act, speak and think even
that which is contrary to the desire of his heart and diametrically
opposed to it.

For even when one's heart craves and desires a material pleasure,
whether permitted, [in which case it is only the lustful nature of
the desire that is evil - instead of desiring the pleasure "for the
sake of heaven," as he should, he seeks self-gratification], - or
whether, G-d forbid, [he desires that which is] forbidden, [and the
desire is intrinsically evil; whatever sort of craving it is] - he
can conquer [this desire] and divert his attention from it altogether,
by declaring to himself ["saying to his heart" as follows]:

"I do not want to be a rasha - [in succumbing to the blandishments
of the animal soul] - even for a moment, because under no
circumstances do I want to be parted and severed, heaven forbid,
from the One G-d; as is written, (1) "Your iniquities separate ....
[you from G-d]."

[By reflecting that sin separates one from G-d, one will conclude
that he does not wish to be a rasha, since he will thereby sever his
bond with Him. In this way, one can always "turn away from evil" and
refrain from sin although his heart craves it.

Similarly, in order for one to "do good" and actively perform the
mitzvot, he should declare to himself]:

"I desire, instead, to unite my Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah with G-d
through investing them in `His' three garments, namely, action, speech
and thought dedicated to G-d, His Torah and His commandments.

[These are called "His" (G-d's) three garments because they lend
expression to His wisdom (Torah) and Will (mitzvot), which are one
with G-d Himself].

"[This desire to unite with G-d arises] out of the love of G-d that
is (surely) hidden in my heart [though I do not feel it], just as
[this love is found] in the heart of all Jews, who are called (2)
`lovers of Your (G-d's) Name' [by reason of their inherent love of
G-d, although they do not all feel this love consciously].

"[For this reason], even a kal shebekalim [a most unworthy Jew] is
capable of sacrificing his life for the sanctity of G-d [should he
be forced to deny Him, G-d forbid]. Surely I am not inferior to him.

[As will be explained in later chapters, the ability of even the
lowliest Jew to give up his very life for G-d stems from every Jew's
innate, hidden love of G-d, which is activated and aroused whenever he
feels that he is being torn away from Him. But if the kal shebekalim
does indeed love G-d so deeply that he will surrender his life for
Him, why is he a kal shebekalim? Why does he sin? Why does he not
observe the mitzvot]?

"It is only that a spirit of folly has overcome [lit., `entered']
him, [as our Sages say: (3) `No man sins unless overcome by a spirit
of folly]'; he imagines that committing this sin will not affect his
Jewishness, and that his soul will not be severed thereby from the G-d
of Israel.

[In fact, at the moment that a Jew sins he becomes separated from
G-d. Were the kal shebekalim to realize this, he would never sin.
The "spirit of folly," however, deludes him into thinking otherwise].

"[Similarly, the kal shebekalim neglects the positive mitzvot,
although his natural love of G-d dictates that he fulfill them,
because] he also forgets the love of G-d hidden in his heart. [Were
he aware of this love, he would seek out mitzvot to perform in order
to unite with G-d.

All this applies to the kal shebekalim]. "But as for me - [one should
say to himself] - I have no desire to be such a fool as he, to deny
the truth!"

[For the truth of the matter is that sin does separate man from
G-d, and that one does have a natural love of G-d that dictates the
performance of mitzvot. "These truths," one must say to himself, "I
do not wish to deny."

Such arguments are effective in a conflict with one's animal soul over
actual thought, speech and action. Using the above-mentioned reasoning
one can prevail over his evil inclination at all times (in both
"turning from evil" and "doing good"), and thereby attain the rank of
the Beinoni].

It is different, however, with something entrusted to the heart,
[i.e., involving one's feelings], meaning, [in our case], that one's
heart actually abhor and despise the evil [that he now craves,
whether] with absolute hatred [as the perfect tzaddik does], or even
not quite so utterly, [as does the "incomplete tzaddik]."

This cannot be attained in complete truth except through that level
of intense love of G-d called "love of delights," [which consists
of] delighting in G-dliness, akin to [the bliss of] the World to Come,
[concerning which our Sages say, that souls "will bask in the radiance
of the Divine Presence." Only such "love of delights" (Ahava
Be'ta'anugim) creates a hatred of evil, as explained in the previous

Concerning [one who experiences] this ["love of delights"] our Sages
said, (4) "You shall see [a glimmer of] your [reward in the] World
to Come in your lifetime." Not every man is privileged to attain this
state, for it is in the nature of a reward received [from above, and
a reward can only be received, not taken].

Thus it is written, (5) "I (G-d) will make your priestly office a
rewarding service," [Service of G-d with this ecstatically blissful
love is designated "priesthood" even though it is not restricted to
the Kohanim, members of the priestly family of Aaron. The above-
quoted verse tells us that this lofty level of divine service is
a gift from G-d], as is explained elsewhere. (6)

[Consequently, the rank of tzaddik is not within every man's reach:
it is dependent upon one's loathing of evil, which is in turn
contingent on his experiencing that blissful love which is a gift from
G-d. The level of Beinoni, however, is attainable by all.

With this in mind, the Alter Rebbe clarifies the Talmudic passage that
describes Job as saying to G-d: "You have created tzaddikim (righteous
men), and You have created resha'im (wicked men)." In the first
chapter of Tanya the Alter Rebbe asked: How can G-d be said to have
"created" righteous and wicked men? If man is wicked, it is his own
doing. G-d ordains only whether one shall be clever or foolish,
strong or weak, and the like; he does not declare whether one will be
righteous or wicked, for doing so would negate man's freedom of
choice. How, then, could Job say, "You have created men as tzaddikim
and resha'im?"

The matter becomes clear, however, in light of the Alter Rebbe's
statement here that the ability to become a tzaddik is a gift from
G-d, not granted to every man. "You have created tzaddikim" thus means
that G-d created souls capable of attaining the rank of tzaddik.
In the Alter Rebbe's words]:

Therefore did Job say, "`You created tzaddikim ...."

[We can now understand Job's statement as a reference to those
souls created with the capacity of attaining the rank of tzaddik.
(The meaning of "You have created resha'im" is explained in ch. 27.)]

As stated in Tikkunei Zohar, (7) there are many grades and degrees in
Jewish souls:

Pious men ("chassidim"), strong men ("gibborim") who gain mastery
over their evil inclination, scholars of the Torah, prophets, ....
tzaddikim, and so forth. Note there.

[Accordingly, within the ranks of the souls there are those who
are categorized as tzaddikim]. (8)


1. Yeshayahu 59:2.
2. Tehillim 5:12.
3. Sotah 3a.
4. Berachot 17a.
5. Bamidbar 18:7.
6. See further, ch. 43.
7. Introduction to Tikkunei Zohar 1b.
8. This appears to be the Alter Rebbe's intention in citing
Tikkunei Zohar. However, the Rebbe remarks: "This bears
examination." Possibly, the Rebbe is implying doubt as
to whether the Alter Rebbe understands the mention of tzaddikim
in Tikkunei Zohar as referring to those souls born with the
capacity to become tzaddikim, since the other qualities mentioned
there - especially those that characterize the "gibborim, who
prevail with might over their Yetzer Hara" - are not hereditary,
but are attained by dint of one's efforts. On the other hand,
"gibborim" may refer to souls that are inherently inclined toward
Gevurah, as are "chassidim" toward Chesed, and so on.


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