Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tanya Ch. 8 (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. 8


The point to be made though -- and this is what’s so difficult here -- is that the latter sorts of things *do* descend into impurity, for a time at least [7]. And that they leave traces, unwanted vestiges of themselves behind in our body. After all, everything we eat becomes our very flesh and blood, and has to be reckoned with [8], it’s just that sometimes the trace left behind is flavorful while othertimes it’s wretched, and therein lies diiference).

So the warning -- and it's a very serious one at that -- is that we'd have to experience what’s referred to as “The Purgatory of the Grave” [9] after death for having engaged in these sorts of "innocent" diversions, in order to be purged of the impurities associated with the luminous husk [10] and the aforementioned Jewish Demons [11] we'd thus linked ourselves up to -- usually unknowingly and innocuously.

But the truth be known, only rare and lofty individuals like the holy Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi would escape "The Purgatory of the Grave" altogether (see Ketubot 104A; Shabbat 118A, Tosephot Rubum). For while he'd certainly made use of all sorts of permitted things, he nonetheless didn't derive any personal pleasure from any of it. He only partook of them altruistically (Tanya M’vuar) [12]. So we'd be far from alone in our terror, since most people expereince this; but that gives us little succor.


[7] ... until you repent, that is.

[8] This is analogous to the semen that had gone on to produce an actual illegitimate child cited in the last chapter. The point is that the flesh and blood produced as a product of our having eaten to excess would have to be reckoned with every bit as much as an illegitimate child would.

[9] This daunting experience is described in Sha’ar HaGilgullim 23 as follows: “Immediately after a person dies and is buried, four angels come to ... return his soul to his body .... They then take him by the ‘corners’ (i.e. by his extremities) and shake and beat him ... , much the way a garment is held by its ends and shaken in order to clean it off from its dust, until the husk (there) leaves completely .... The righteous don’t need much shaking ... but the opposite is true of the wicked .... (But in the end,) each person receives what he needs according to the level of the husk (attached to him) and the degree to which it’s attached.” (See note 8 to the previous chapter.)

[10] ...which is, after all, still a husk, and still attached to un-G-dliness to some degree.

[11] ...which are, after all, still demons -- albeit *familiar*, native ones.

[12] It should be noted that if you enjoy something that’s permissible but not necessary *neither* for the sake of Heaven nor to satisfy a desire but you enjoy it just “like that”, it would still attach itself onto the luminous husk in the end. And that’s because you’d have derived satisfaction from it despite yourself. But if you’d set out to eat, drink, etc. something like that altruistically, you’d be accredited with *not* having derived satisfaction from it in the end [even if you actually did], since you’d (originally) partaken of it for Heaven’s sake (Likut Perushim 8:6).

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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). His new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available.
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