Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tanya Ch. 12 (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. 12


It's vitally important to understand, though, that the only reason why a benoni doesn't actually sin is because of the fact that his three outer "garments" aren't overtaken by his animalistic spirit [3]. That's to say that while it's true that he doesn't think, say, or actually do anything wrong -- nonetheless "inside" those garments where he himself lies, a benoni *can* be overtaken by his animalistic spirit (unlike the tzaddik who’s no longer subject to that).

So, his righteousness is in a certain, broad sense only "skin deep", in that in his core he isn't fully, essentially righteous; it's just that no one would know that, given how righteous all his thoughts, utterances, and actions are [4].

That's certainly not to say that he's a hypocrite or self-delusional. Only that despite his overt and thoroughly honest goodness and devotion, deep in his being he's still-and-all open to sins and shortcomings. Hence unlike a tzaddik, a benoni is always engaged in an inner struggle (Biur Tanya); always at risk of lapsing. _________________________________________


[3] See 4:2 for a discussion of the soul's "garments".

[4] Of course, only an individual himself and G-d Almighty can really know what anyone is and whether or not his righteousness goes to the core. But one can often-enough "read" another's mind in a sense if he's familiar enough with that person's patterns of actions and utterances. Of course no such reading is foolproof, since there are many well-trained individuals (like actors, con-men, and even well-meaning teachers of different stripes) who can indeed mislead others, but the point is still largely valid.

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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