Thursday, July 08, 2004

A Condensation of Tanya (Part 4)

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

PART FOUR: Ch's 26-34

1. There are several things for each one of us to watch out for that could dissuade us from drawing close to G-d and to dedicating ourselves to His service -- things that eat away at our simple happiness.

2. After all, success at drawing close to Him hinges upon our ability to overcome our untoward urges, and we only manage to do that well when we're happy, enthusiastic, and inspired in our Divine service. But we fail at it when we serve G-d in a sluggish, humdrum, worrisome, and dispirited sort of way. So it would obviously serve us well to know how to be and stay happy.

3. For, "if it's true that when one of two wrestlers trying to throw the other to the ground is sluggish, the other is sure to win even if the sluggish one is actually stronger, it's likewise true that it's impossible to defeat the yetzer harah sluggishly" (Ch. 26), despite your innate goodness and gifts. So we'd also need to learn how to avert the sort of sluggishness and humdrum borne out of sadness.

4. The truth be known, sometimes it's perfectly appropriate to be averse to and bitter about (though not saddened by) by certain things -- like your failings. But it's important not to be sad or worried about everyday things not related to your spiritual standing, even when they touch upon some serious things like family, health and livelihood. You're to do all you can to accept everything happily (in ways to be explained).

5. Even when your sadness is based upon your spiritual standing, there's a healthy way to react to it. It would be to express contrition and *bitterness* about your sins (i.e., to experience a "bad taste in your mouth" about them; to find them disgusting and unpalatable, rather than bleak and disheartening). But even that should only be expressed at specific times. If such feelings come upon you on their own, though, then you're to do all you can to nullify them, since sadness then is rooted in unholiness.

6. In fact, there's little difference as to whether sadness comes over you when you're engaged in mitzvot or at work (for example); it only comes upon you to throw you off-track and to encourage you to sin. But if it comes upon you at work than you should be glad about being given the opportunity to fulfill the injunction not to be swayed by the promptings of your heart or your eyes. If it comes upon you while you're engaged in mitzvot, then you're to likewise reject them. But don't then be concerned that you should be having untoward thoughts or the like while you're praying or studying Torah, since rather than indicating that you're unworthy, it underscores the fact that you're being (deservedly) challenged.

7. Now, if you suffer from the aforementioned sluggishness and dispiritedness, and you can't arouse yourself to serve G-d, then know that all that comes over you because your inner husk is overcovering G-d's light and thus closing you off to its influence. The best thing to do would be to shatter that husk by subjugating yourself to G-d and asking Him for help. It also helps to realize your distance from G-d at that time and how impure your sins have left you, and to dwell upon your spiritual stature even in comparison to many others you'd ordinarily consider to be more lowly than you.

8. Should that make you sad in fact (which we're trying to avoid, recall), know that that's a beneficial sadness which will help you to overcome your failings, and will lead to the aforementioned cleansing and beneficial contrition and bitterness that would foster true repentance and the sort of joy that comes from liberating one's soul from the exile of life in a body.

9. In fact, having that perspective also makes it easier for us to love other Jews as we're enjoined to. After all, we'd have come to realize how much more significant the soul is than the body in the big picture, and how much more joy there is in spiritual rather than material attainment. And that would lead us to focus upon the soul of our fellow Jews rather than upon their personal selves, and to love them on *that* level (which in turn helps us to foster a love of G-d).

10. In any event (returning to our main theme for this section), the best way to achieve true joy is to dwell deeply upon the reality of G-d's omnipresence and dominion (as is explained), and to set that in your heart firmly. For that will enable you to set up a dwelling place for Him in your full being.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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