Friday, June 18, 2004

A Condensation of Tanya (Part 1)

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

PART ONE: Introduction through Ch. 8

1. This first section begins by introducing the idea that while some of us Jews are utterly wrongful by nature and others of us are fully righteous, the great preponderance of us are somewhere in between. And it behooves us each to know just where we stand on that continuum. Before we can do that, though, we'll have to understand our spiritual makeup.

2. RSZ's first insight for us into that is his statement that we're each comprised of two "predilections" or spirits: one toward rank animalism and another toward pure G-dliness.

3. The G-dly spirit, we're taught, is a veritable portion of G-d and it's comprised of ten elements in all: three “mind" elements and seven “heart" elements. There are three "garments" connected with it, too: our thoughts, speech, and actions. We learn that our G-dly spirit is elevated when its garments are used to fulfill mitzvot; that our mind is united with G-d's very will and wisdom when we study Torah; and that our hearts come into play when we infuse the love and fear of G-d into that.

4. Our animalistic spirit is also comprised of ten mind and heart elements and three garments. But it's *derived* from the four "husks" and the "other side" rather than directly from G-dliness. The four husks that it's derived from are actually comprised of two subsets, though: three utterly impure husks and a single "luminous” one that straddles the border between holiness and unholiness.

5. Now, since the luminous element of our animalistic spirit can function in either holiness or unholiness and we have it within us to determine which one it will, it stands to reason that there'll be times when we lapse into unholiness (since we nearly all fall sway to the animalistic spirit's urgings). So, how do we rectify things when we do? And what's the difference between what we do when we lapse into outright unholiness and when we succumb to more subtly wrongful things, like partaking of perfectly acceptable things to excess?

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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