Monday, November 13, 2006

Tanya Ch. 7 (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. 7


Now, there are a number of curious anomalies connected with this in-between realm. Because I could ironically enjoy a fine and fairly elaborate meal, wash it down with fine wine, and still manage to do it all in a spirit of holiness -- with the right intentions. If I do it in order to relax and clear my mind enough to study Torah in more depth, for example (see Yoma 76B, Sanhedrin 40A, Horayot 13B); or in order to honor the Sabbath or a Festival (see Mishne Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 6:10; Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 242:1). For it all then comes to be associated with the side of holiness (see Iggeret HaKodesh 26, p. 146B).

The same goes for many other such things. I might for example share a hardy joke with a friend and elevate it to the side of holiness if I tell it, for example, in order to lift his spirits or to give oomph to our mutual Torah studies [6].

The difference is that the spiritual components of the meal I’d eaten or the joke I’d told in such a spirit would have been transferred from the luminous husk to out-and-out holiness, whereas if I’d have eaten or joked for lesser reasons they’d have been transferred to out-and-out impurity, and I myself would have become tainted in the process [7].

There’s always hope, though; always a way to make amends for all sins -- let alone ones associated with things that are permissible anyway. I could reconsider what I’d done and the spirit in which I’d done it, regret my actions and decide right there and then never to do that again. Which is to say, I could repent (see sect. 5 below). And my having done that would then allow the food, the joke, *and myself* to revert fully to the side of holiness.

The truth of the matter is, though, that a shadow or a speck of impurity would remain behind in my being, which would have to be reckoned with in the end [8], but know that it will be indeed be undone by then.



[6] See Pesachim 117A, where Rav joked with his students in order to open their hearts and minds enough to be more receptive to what he had to say (Likutei Biurim).

[7] I’d have become a “vehicle” for the misdeed, as it’s put classically -- which is to say that my very being would have been so absorbed by and lost in the deed that I’d have been a virtual mindless accomplice to it, a sort of innocent bystander who could very well have done something to stop the crime but didn’t, and I’d have thus played a part in it despite himself (Shiurim b’Sefer haTanya).

[8] I.e., in the afterlife, through a daunting process known as the “Purgatory of the Grave”, which we’ll cite in Ch. 8 as well. (See Ch’s 22-23 of Shaar HaGilgulim).

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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