Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tanya Ch. 10 (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. 10


Utter tzaddikim manage to do something quite remarkable. Rather than only prevail over the wrongfulness in their hearts, they actually *transform it to goodness*, and to use those once-untoward biases in the service of G-d (Maskil L’Eitan).

They do that we’re told by divesting themselves of their so-called "filthy clothing" (i.e., their -- and our -- more lowly human longings that are soiled with wrongfulness), by coming to despise physical pleasures [4], and by donning “clean” garments instead. Thus, they've learned how to channel their wrongfullness into goodness (Shiurim b’Sefer haTanya) [5].

What utter tzaddikim find repellent about wrongfulness, by the way, is the fact that it's derived from the husk and the other side which they despise. For what gives all tzaddikim their impetus -- and most especially utter tzaddikim -- and what sets them apart from the rest of us is their love of G-d [6]. They love G-d so very much, and quite ecstatically. And that naturally leads them to despise anything associated with the other side (Shiurim b’Sefer haTanya) which contradicts His wishes. In fact, one can tell how much he or she loves G-d by determining just how despicable and hateful he or she finds wrongfulness to be.

In any event, even though they’re indeed righteous, incomplete tzaddikim nonetheless don't utterly hate the other side and things associated with it, and don't find them to be completely despicable. That explains the fact that while incomplete tzaddikim don't sin, they nonetheless retain the ability to sin on some subtle level (Biur Tanya).

It still remains true, though, that the righteousness of the incomplete tzaddikim far outweighs their wrongfulness and is null and void for all intents and purposes. It's just that in contradistinction to complete tzaddikim, their love of G-d is incomplete and they thus function on a highly potential but not a fully realized level (Biur Tanya).

Understand as well that there are very many degrees of incomplete righteousness, depending on how much wrongfulness is left behind. Some incomplete tzaddikim will have sixty times more righteousness than wrongfulness, for example, others a thousand times, or tens-of-thousands times more, and the like.

That phenomenon helps to explain two apparently contradictory remarks offered by our sages, by the way. First, that there are eighteen thousand tzaddikim all-in-all (see Sukkah 45B and Sanhedrin 97B), and second that there are actually very few "lofty individuals" (ibid.) in the world. The quandry can be solved by noting that the former refers to the sum total of both incomplete and complete tzaddikim, and the latter to the number of complete tzaddikim.



[4] It's out-and-out, purely *physical*, mundane delights they've come to despise -- those that draw us all away from G-d. But they're still attracted to Shabbat-related delights for example, and the like (Maskil L’Eitan), because the latter are spiritual pleasures "wrapped" in material entities, if you will.

[5] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto explains this in The Path of the Just (Ch. 26) where he says that "Even the mundane actions of the person sanctified in the holiness of His Creator are turned around to actual holiness. This can best be illustrated by the eating of sacrificial-offerings" where ordinary food is thus elevated to an element of a mitzvah, and thus is both profane and Divine at the same time.

[6] Thus, love is a *vital* element of one's righteousness, and the more of it one has for G-d, the greater the tzaddik he is. For as we noted in Ch. 9 above there are varying extents to which one’s love of G-d can go. There’s "the fiery love of G-d" and "gladness of heart" that comes from apprehending G-d’s presence in the world, and what's termed "abounding" or "ecstatic love" (see there).

RSZ spells out the significance of the varying qualities of one’s love for G-d elsewhere, where he underscores how much it sets utter-tzaddikim apart from lesser tzaddikim and differentiates them from the rest us. (RSZ alludes to it in Tanya also, as we’ll point out; but less outright.)

He underscores the fact (in Torah Ohr, B’chodesh Hashlishi, p. 66) that the Patriarch Abraham, who was undoubtedly a tzaddik of the highest order since he could “overturn the other side and turn darkness into light” (see section 4 below), acheived a state referred to as “exalted love” (ahavah ha’elyonah, which is identical to the above cited "abounding" or "ecstatic love") thanks to which he yearned only to realize true personal nullification before G-d’s Presence.

How did he ever come upon that? By “ruminating upon Ohr Ayn Sof Atsmo HaSovev Cal Olamim”, which is to say by reflecting upon G-d’s very Being in its most transcendant aspect, utterly removed from creation and from everything other than Himself”.

The point of the matter is that it’s the quality of one’s love for G-d that defines his tzaddik state; success at that hinges upon the degree to which one ruminates upon G-d’s very Being, and it’s characterized by a high and superhuman degree of personal surrender and subservience to His will. (This sublime degree of love -- depicted as an experience of the World to Come in the here-and-now -- is also said to be a gift from on High as a consequence of the tzaddik’s having had his G-dly spirit prevail over his animalistic one, refined his physicality, studied a great deal of Torah and fulfilled many mitzvot, and his having earned a lofty soul [Chinuch Kattan].

As an interesting aside, we'll note in Ch. 14 that one could also become a tzaddik by being "possessed" by the soul of a deceased tzaddik from the past!

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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