Monday, November 20, 2006

Tanya Ch. 8 (Part 1)

“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. 8


We’d pointed out in the last chapter that we could engage in all sorts of everyday things in a spirit of holiness: that we could enjoy a fairly elaborate meal for example, take an “innocent” stroll, drink a soda, and read a classic novel and still manage to somehow be connected to G-dliness.

But understand that unless we engage in them in such a spirit that we’d be bogged down in the husks all the time, since most of that is connected to the gray-shaded luminous husk. So we’re now about to see just how far that all goes.

Now, some might say that what’s laid out in this chapter is rather discomfiting, perhaps even chilling. But the point should be made that it’s all quite sensible and reasonable, if not easy, and certainly helpful if our goal is righteousness and closeness to G-d. For as RSZ assured his readers, he’ll “find peace for his soul” by complying with the mandates offered in this book; he’ll come upon “the sort of advice on everything that he finds difficult in Divine service” herein; and that “his heart will thus be firmly fixed in G-d” for having read and applied its insights into his life. So since the serious student of spiritual growth would want nothing less, we'll explore what's to follow in that spirit (see sect 3 of Author’s Introduction).

Before we lay that out, though ... and come to the end of the first section of this book, too ... let’s first touch upon another idea. We spoke last time about transforming ethically and spiritually neutral food (among other neutral things) into elements of holiness. Could we ever do the same to clearly forbidden, unkosher foods and the like?

Could we, for example, accidentally eat an unkosher meal for the best of intentions, use the energy we'd derived from it to then pray, study Torah, or fulfill mitzvot with fervor and thus elevate the unkosher food [1]?



[1] That's to say, could we eat it altruistically and "for the sake of Heaven" (not knowing of course that it was unkosher)? The answer will prove to be that we can't. But contrast that with our discussion in the previous chapter about doing permitted ordinary thing less than altruistically (Biur Tanya).

Apparently the point of the contrast is to indicate that while intentions are indeed vital, the act itself is what matters in the end.

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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