Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tanya Ch. 13 (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. 13


Understand, though, that the benoni's animalistic spirit is still as potent and vexing as ever, and it still has him long for all sorts of mundane pleasures; it doesn't become undone or supplanted by its encounter with his G-dly spirit, sad to say; and his G-dly spirit still and all doesn't rule over his body, despite G-d's help -- since at bottom, the benoni is not a tzaddik.

It's vitally important to realize that about the benoni -- that is, about *us*. Because it’s important to reiterate the point again and again that we’re actually referring to ourselves (potentially, that is) when we discuss all this; for as RSZ says at the very beginning of the next chapter, “*everyone* can become a benoni, at any time”.

For if we don’t realize that our animalistic spirit isn’t undone by its encounters with our G-dly spirit then we're likely be unaware of who we are and where we stand on the merit continuum. We might then fool ourselves into thinking we're more righteous than we are and slacken off in our quest for closeness to G-d accordingly (see Biur Tanya, Shiurim b’Sefer haTanya) [5]. Or, conversely, we might not effect certain tikkunim (specific mystical acts of rectification) that are expected of tzaddikim if we *are* tzaddikim but don't know it (Maskil L'Eitan). The truth be known, though, most people who aren't tzaddikim don't (and shouldn’t) assume that they are (Likutei Biurim, p. 327).


[5] See 3:4 above about another possible fallacy that results from misreading one’s stature: that of imagining yourself loving and fearing G-d when you really don't.

Yet, there seems to be a wish in every G-d-fearing individual's heart to be a tzaddik in fact, though few are; and we wonder why we can't be one. Perhaps we can take comfort, though, from the following insight by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto who offers that "this is (simply) the way G-d chose it to be. Nonetheless, while it is impossible for a whole nation to be of one spiritual type, and there are all sorts of degrees in people ... there will at least be found some special individuals who could completely prepare themselves, and by means of this make meritorious the unprepared for the love of G-d and the indwelling of His Presence" (Messilat Yesharim, Ch. 13).

(c) 2007 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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