Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tanya -- Ch. 4, Part 3

“Nearly Everybody”: The Inner Life and Struggles of the Jewish Soul

(Based on “Tanya: Collected Discourses of R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi”)

by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 4


Our *hearts* come into play, too. As when we fulfill any of the intellectual, verbal, and practical mitzvot in a spirit of love for G-d or of fear of Him [5]. In short, loving G-d comes to either never wanting to separate yourself from Him and wanting instead to unite your whole being to His (see Ch. 14 below), or to experiencing a great, fervent, and all-consuming glowing yearning from the depths of your heart to cleave onto Him (see Ch. 9 below).

In fact, it’s the love of G-d that moves and enables us to fulfill the imperative mitzvot in all their fullness (see Zohar 3:122B) [6]. Since we can only attach ourselves to G-d through the mitzvah system as we’re implored to do when we love Him and want to attach ourselves to His being. In fact, without a love of G-d behind it, we really couldn’t be said to be fulfilling mitzvot-- with any ardor, at least (Likutei Biurim).

There are other ways to fulfill the 248 imperatives, to be sure. By rote, for example; out of a sense of duty; or simply by dint of the Divine spirit’s natural pull toward them. But that doesn’t allow you to draw G-d’s light upon yourself (Igeret HaKodesh 10), or to take hold of the corresponding 248 “limbs and organs of the King” (which we’ll explain) [7]. So, the best way to fulfill them is in a spirit of love.

Now, as to the fear of G-d which touches upon the 365 prohibitions: we’re told that there are two sorts. One comes down to being just too intimidated and frightened to rebel against G-d Almighty, while the second -- which is more internal and touches more profoundly upon oneself -- is based on a thoroughgoing sense of being too out-and-out ashamed to rebel against Him but doing anything that would vitalize the husks and the other side that are so anathema to Him (Shiurim BeSefer HaTanya) [8].

Thus our emotions can be said to goad our thoughts, speech, and actions away from pedestrian to lofty service of G-d, and to act as its very wings.



[5] Love and fear are the two quintessential emotions, as was indicated in the last chapter, and they’ll be expanded upon just below and in later chapters in greater detail.

[6] That’s to say that while it’s the love of G-d that moves and enables us to fulfill *all* the mitzvot, it especially and more specifically moves us to fulfill the imperatives.

Loving G-d will prove to be a major and primal theme in Tanya, and it will be presented with many shadings and a lush array of depictions. The fear of Him is also of major importance, but it only seems to attract RSZ’s rapt attention when it touches on some level of loving Him, interstingly enough. For it seems that RSZ often experienced blissful states of G-d-intoxication. He was said to have been found alone from time to time, seemingly out of anyone’s sight (but not), chanting over and over again, “G-d Almighty! I don’t want Your lower heaven, Your upper heaven, or Your World to Come -- all I want is You!”

We’ll learn about the sort of love of G-d that emanates from the depths of one’s being, that seems to flare up and glow with passion and desire, and to overflow, as well as how to differentiate between “abundant” and “ardent” love in Ch. 9; about “delightful” love in Ch. 14; and about the hidden, latent love found in each Jewish heart in Ch’s 15 and 18, for example.

[7] See Ch. 23 below where RSZ explains that the mitzvot are said to be G-d’s “limbs” and "organs" simply because they acquiesce to His will on teh spot much the way our organs acquiesce to our wishes.

[8] This sense of being ashamed to rebel against Him is not, though, the greatest and highest degree of fear of -- or better yet, awe in the presence of -- G-d one could experience. That would be the sort that's discussed in Ch. 43 below which leads to the undoing of the self spoken of there (Likutei Biurim). And apropos to what we wrote above in note 6, RSZ discusses other aspects of the fear of G-d in Ch. 43, and elsewhere.

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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