Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tanya Ch. 10 (Part 2)

“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. 10


We're told that there are two sorts of tzaddikim over all, in fact: less-than-completely righteous ones, with a tinge or more of wrongfulness, and complete and utter tzaddikim.

An incomplete tzaddik is someone who *has* indeed managed to have his G-dly spirit prevail over his animalistic biases after the aforementioned inner struggle and to have rendered them inert, and null and void for all intents and purposes [2], which is quite a victory. But he hasn't managed to do the sort of things that utter tzaddikim do with those biases (which we'll soon explore).

So there's still a semblance of wrongfulness in his heart, which he nevertheless *never acts out on* . Understand of course that the sorts of wrongfulness he’d be guilty of would fall under the category of wanting to use permitted things in improper ways -- not out-and-out wrongfulness (Maskil L’Eitan). So it’s not that incomplete tzaddikim plunge into wrongdoing once in a great while -- they just do ordinary things in ordinary ways, as we do, which renders them less than wholly righteous.

He (and we) might think, though, that he’d completely eradicated his urges, but he wouldn’t have. For if he had, he’d be a complete tzaddik, which he’s not. So let's contrast his standing now with that of a complete tzaddik [3].


[2] ... compared to all the good in him ...

[3] A complete or utter tzaddik in RSZ’s system is the classical chassid, pious individual (Biur Tanya, Maskil L’Eitan), who's actually loftier than a tzaddik in those contexts. That begs the question then as to how the Chassidic movement managed to switch things around and set the “tzaddik” or rebbe above the “chassid" or adherent.

There are many answers, but RSZ offers an "insider's" insight that's very interesting. In a letter written in response to Russian government inquiries about the Chassidic movement, RSZ mentions in passing that its adherents came to be called chassidim (by their detractors) because they spent a lot of time on prayers like the early pious ones ("chassidim") cited in Berachot 30B who used to prepare for an hour before prayers, pray for an hour, then reflect on their prayers for another hour afterwards, three times a day (see Hamadrich l'Avodat Hashem pp. 165-167).

Let it also be pointed out that utter tzaddikim are also rare individuals with high souls who are very wise and literally sense the presence of G-dliness, and that there have always been very few of them in a generation -- including the earlier generations (Maskil L’Eitan).

And let’s also add that there are other definitions of incomplete tzaddikim that are easier for most of us to live up to. One who’s careful not to lapse into licentiousness is termed a tzaddik (see Zohar 1, p. 93A) as well as one who’s of sure faith, who’s careful to pray in a minyan and to respond to particular blessings as a consequence, who recites the requisite 100 blessings everyday, and someone who’s charitable (Likut Perushim to Ch. 1, pp. 40-41). We’d also be tzaddikim as soon as we’d repented wholeheartedly, though that would be undone as soon as we’d sinned again (or used everyday things for mundane ends, according to RSZ).

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Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued and can be ordered from here
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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