Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tanya Ch. 12 (Part 5)

“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 a benoni is still and all not a tzaddik -- despite the fact that the light of his G-dly spirit became greater than the dark foolishness of the husks in his being, and regardless of the fact that it played no part in any of his thoughts, utterances, and deeds. Since his inner being hadn't been fully disassociated from the animalistic spirit, and because his animalistic spirit reemerges -- in full flower -- as soon as the benoni finishes praying.

Why is that so? Because the only sort of love of G-d in his heart would be the sort that's naturally sequestered in our G-dly spirit all the time rather than the more exalted "fiery love" for Him, which we’ll learn about later on in this work. And so he's capable of sinning right after having prayed, and of desiring all sorts of mundane things -- both permitted and forbidden -- as if he hadn't just prayed. It's just that it wouldn't occur to him to *actually* sin.

He might indeed, though, be subject to a sudden and involuntary influx of untoward thoughts, which would confound his Divine service and Torah study. After all, as our sages said, "(There are) three sins that no one escapes from for even a day: Sinful thoughts, (lack of) concentration in prayer, and the 'dust' of slander" (Baba Battra 164B) [10]. Nevertheless, the impression left behind in his being from his prayers as well as the fear and love of G-d that's naturally sequestered in his heart do indeed help him to overcome those sorts of thoughts, and prevent them from ruling over him and from having him act out on their promptings.

That's why, in the end, the benoni's animalistic spirit doesn't take control over his untoward thoughts and thus can't force him to dwell on them. As he's able to reject them out of hand as soon as they occur to him and to be repulsed by them [11]. And he's also able to simply refuse to consciously dwell on them, act out on them, or to even utter them; since anyone who dwells on such thoughts is deemed a rasha at that point, while a benoni is never, ever a rasha -- not even for a moment.



[10] See our note 5 to ch. 11.

[11] That's to say that while the benoni still has to contend with untoward thoughts on some level, the same sorts of thoughts merely appear-then-disappear in an incomplete tzaddik's mind, while utter tzaddikim don't even experience them (Maskil L’Eitan).

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org )

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.
Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled
"Spiritual Excellence" and "Ramchal"