Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tanya Ch. 12 (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. 12


But there *are* instances in which the benoni's inner being is actually free from the tauntings of his animalistic spirit -- though only temporarily. And that would be when he's reciting The Sh'ma or uttering The Sh'mone Esrai prayer [5]. Since those are times when distinct and extraordinary interactions between G-d and us can take place, which are termed instances of Mochin d'Gadlut (literally, "large mindedness", or "amplified awareness").

For that's when we can all attach our G-dly spirit's three mind elements (see 3:1 above) unto G-d's presence by reflecting deeply upon G-d's infinite greatness, and we can set off a sense of fiery love for Him in our hearts and cling unto Him.

"Extra light" is said to shine downward upon us from up above then [6], which then enables more light to shine upon the G-dly spirit, that in turn helps it to suppress the animalistic spirit (Likutei Biurim). The benoni's mind connects more easily to G-d then, and he can thus delve more deeply into G-d's greatness, and more easily arouse the sort of fiery love that lies dormant in the right side of his heart [7]. Those, then, are the most propitious moments in a soul’s life.

So indeed, that's when the benoni's animalistic spirit is subjugated to his G-dly spirit (the way a tzaddik's is), since his mind is attached to G-d's greatness then.

It's just that his animalistic spirit is only asleep, if you will, then, and his capacity to sin is temporarily "turned off". The point is that his animalistic spirit will still-and-all awaken just as soon as the benoni finishes praying and he once again starts to fantasize about one worldly attraction or another (though some small semblance of his prayers can and often does indeed stay with him through the day [see Maskil L’Eitan]).

(We'll explain some of the dynamic involved in reciting The Sh'ma in our forthcoming Appendix 1, based on Shaar HaYichud V’haEmunah, ch. 7; and in utteringThe Sh'mone Esrai in Appendix 2, based on Kuntres Acharon, Essay 4.)


[5] "Reciting 'The Sh'ma'" entails reading and concentrating on certain potent and affirmative verses that speak about G-d's oneness, might, love, dependability, and justice; about His expectations of us; and about the exile, including Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11: 13-21, and Numbers 15:38-41.

The "Sh'mone Esrai” is the central text of all Jewish prayer.

[6] I.e., a greater degree of immaterial, numinous "nourishment" from up above is said to shine.

[7] RSZ says that this process is in effect not only when we recite the Sh'ma and Sh'mone Esrai -- but also when we recite the blessings before the Sh'ma and after it (and hence before the Sh'mone Esrai). We're told in ch. 49 below that the first of those blessings depicts different aspects of G-d's greatness -- how the most sublime angels are nullified in His presence, how far exalted above them He is, etc. And that the second one tells of how much He loves the Jewish Nation, how He draws them close to Him, etc. Hence, after reflecting upon these blessings one is indeed ready to recite The Sh'ma in the appropriately lofty state of mind.

It's nonetheless important to point out that it's nonetheless true that the benoni's love doesn't "spill over" to the left side of his heart then, and thus doesn't "douse" the fiery love for the world in our being as it would for a tzaddik (Maskil L’Eitan).

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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