Wednesday, January 18, 2006

LESSONS IN TANYA: Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Tevet 18, 5766 * January 18, 2006


Today's Lesson:

Likutei Amarim
Chapter Thirteen

[In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe described the spiritual
profile of the Beinoni.

In the Beinoni's heart, said the Alter Rebbe, evil desires may often
arise, but his divine soul constantly prevents such desires from
finding expression in actual thought, speech or action.

On the contrary, these three soul-garments are the exclusive domain
of the divine soul and are utilized by the Beinoni only for thought,
speech and action of Torah study and the fulfillment of the mitzvot].

Accordingly, we may understand the comment of our Sages (1) that
"Beinonim are judged by both [their good and evil inclinations]"
- [both "judge" him and dictate his conduct. As Scriptural support
for this contention, the Talmud cites]:

For it is written:(2) "He - [the Almighty] - stands at the right
hand of the poor man, to save him from them that judge his soul."
[The plural "them that judge" indicates the presence of two judges
within the person, the evil inclination and the good.

We thus find that the Beinoni's inclinations are described as his

Now, were the term Beinoni to be understood in its simple, literal
sense of one who has an equal history of good deeds and bad, it
should more properly be said that "the Beinoni is *ruled* by both
[inclinations]". For one to sin, his evil inclination must rule him;
for him to do good his good inclination must rule. The Beinoni who
supposedly does both, must be ruled (and not merely "judged") by

However, according to the explanation of the term Beinoni given in
the previous chapter, it is clear that, indeed, the Beinoni is merely
judged by both inclinations, not ruled by both, as shall be explained

Note that [our Sages] did not say, "He is RULED by both [the good
inclination and the evil]," G-d forbid, because where the evil
nature gains any rule and dominion, albeit momentarily, over the
"small city," [i.e., whenever the evil rules one's body - likened to
a city which both the good inclination and the evil seek to conquer],
one is deemed "wicked" [rasha] at such times.

Rather, the evil inclination [in the Beinoni] is no more than, for
example, a magistrate or judge who expresses his opinion on a point
of law, yet in fact his decision is not necessarily final, for there
is another magistrate or judge who disagrees with him.

It then becomes necessary, in order to formulate a binding decision,
to arbitrate between the two, and the final verdict will rest with the

Similarly, [in the battle between the evil inclination and the good]:
The evil inclination states its opinion in the left part of the
[Beinoni's] heart, [i.e., it creates an evil desire in his heart and
demands that he act accordingly, thus rendering "judgment" as to his
future conduct].

From the heart [the desire] ascends to the mind for contemplation.
[This ascent is automatic; whenever a desire is awakened in the heart,
the brain will contemplate it].

Immediately upon its ascent to the brain it is challenged by the
second "judge", the divine soul [residing] in the brain, which
extends into the right part of the heart where the good inclination
abides [i.e., reveals itself.

The good inclination is actually the voice of the divine soul's
emotional attributes, and is hence active in the right part of the
heart; see chapter 9. The good inclination thus battles the evil,
ensuring that the latter's passion not be realized, for the "opinion"
of the good inclination is that all of the body's faculties and organs
be utilized only for matters of holiness].

The final verdict rests with the arbitrator - the Holy One, blessed
be He, who comes to the aid of the good inclination, [enabling it to
prevail over the evil inclination].

As our Sages say, (3) "[Man's evil inclination gathers strength
daily, .... and] if the Almighty did not help him [i.e., help his
good inclination] he could not overcome it [his evil inclination]."

The help [that G-d grants him] is the glow of divine light that
illuminates his divine soul, that it may gain superiority and mastery
over the folly of the "fool", the evil inclination, [a dominion]
paralleling the superiority of light over darkness, as stated above,
[in chapter 12.

Just as a little light banishes much darkness, so is the abounding
folly and darkness of one's evil inclination driven away by dint of
the little light of holiness emanating from his divine soul. It is
this ray of divine illumination that constitutes G-d's assistance to
the divine soul. (4)

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to resolve the contradiction and answer
the question noted in the opening words of the Tanya:

The Talmud states that a Jew is charged with an oath to regard himself
as wicked, whereas elsewhere, the Mishnah declares: "Be not wicked in
your own estimation." Also: "If a person considers himself wicked, he
will be grieved at heart and depressed, and will not be able to serve
G-d joyfully and with a contented heart."

He now explains that the meaning of the oath - which literally reads,
"Be in your own eyes like a rasha" - is that one regard himself not
as an actual rasha, but as like one, having traits similar to those
of a rasha. This means that he must consider himself a Beinoni, who
possesses the same evil in his soul as does a rasha and can desire
evil just as a rasha does.
In the Alter Rebbe's words]:

Yet, inasmuch as the evil in the left part of the Beinoni's heart
is in its native strength, craving after all the pleasures of this
world, and is neither so minute as to be nullified before the good
[of the divine soul (as is the case with a tzaddik)], nor has it
been displaced from its position to any degree, but merely lacks
authority and power to become diffused throughout the limbs of the
body [to cause them to do, speak or think evil;

nor is the evil's lack of ability attributable to the Beinoni's
efforts, for his evil, like that of the rasha, retains its
native strength to pervade the entire body; rather, the evil is
powerless merely] because of the Holy One, blessed be He, who
"stands at the right hand of the poor man," helping him and
irradiating his divine soul [so that it may be able to prevail
over the evil.

Thus it is only Divine intervention that prevents the evil from
pervading the body; essentially, however, the evil of the Beinoni's
animal soul is as strong as it was at birth].

Therefore [the Beinoni] is described as being "k'rasha" "[like a
rasha]", [but *not actually* a rasha], as in the statement of our
Sages, "Even if the whole world tells you that you are a tzaddik,
be in your own eyes *like* a rasha."

He should *not* [regard himself as] an actual rasha, [for the Mishnah
admonishes, (5) "Be not wicked in your own estimation." Moreover,
regarding oneself as a rasha hinders one from serving G-d joyfully].

Rather, one should consider oneself a Beinoni, and should not believe
[i.e., accept] the world's opinion [which would have him believe] that
the evil in him has been nullified by the good, for this is the level
of a tzaddik.

[Only the tzaddik succeeds in nullifying and transforming the
evil within him. But the "world", which judges the Beinoni by his
actions and sees that he never transgresses, asumes that he too
has effectively banished from within him the evil that is the
cause of sin; consequently, people regard him as a tzaddik.

He is therefore cautioned against accepting the opinion of "the

Instead, he should take the view that the essence and core of the
evil is in its full native strength and might, in the left part of
his heart, not having vanished or departed from him at all.

On the contrary, with the passage of time [the evil] has gained
strength because he utilized it [i.e., the animal soul] considerably,
in eating and drinking and in other mundane pursuits.

[As with every faculty, constant use of the animal soul causes it
to become even stronger than it was at birth.

The Alter Rebbe thus concludes that the words "consider yourself
`like a rasha'" mean that one must consider himself a Beinoni.

The above applies even to those who have reached a lofty spiritual
level; they too should consider themselves Beinonim. For should one
consider himself a tzaddik and maintain that the evil within him has
already been nullified by the good, he will cease to do battle with
the evil.

If he is mistaken and is not in fact a tzaddik, such an unfounded
attitude can cause him to slip drastically from his level, descending
even lower than the level of a Beinoni to that of a rasha.

Until now we have been speaking of a working man who does not have
the opportunity to spend all his time in Torah study and divine
service. Now the discussion turns to the individual who spends all
his time immersed in the study of Torah].


1. Berachot 61b.
2. Tehillim 109:31.
3. Kiddushin 30b.
4. It was stated in the previous chapter that man's mind innately
rules his heart. Why, then, should he need special divine
assistance in curbing his appetites?
The Rebbe answers:
This divine assistance is necessary whenever the conflict between
the two souls does not involve a struggle of mind vs. heart; e.g.,
(1) when the divine soul wishes to prevent sinful thoughts from
arising in the mind, or
(2) when the emotive faculties of the divine soul seek to overpower
those of the animal soul (without recourse to contemplation and
But now the question may be reversed: Why in chapter 12 does the
Alter Rebbe use the argument of the mind's natural supremacy over
the heart to point out the divine soul's supremacy over the animal
To this the Rebbe answers:
In chapter 12, the Alter Rebbe speaks of the state of the Beinoni
after prayer, when the effect of his meditation on G-dliness during
prayer still lingers in his mind. At such time his mind is
suffused with G-dliness to the point where the animal soul cannot
so much as voice an opinion there. Thus, any struggle between
the souls at that time would be a case of mind vs. heart, where
the natural supremacy of the mind could confer victory on the
divine soul.
5. Avot 2:13.


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