Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tanya Ch. 13 (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. 13


So, to reiterate, despite his many spiritual accomplishments, a benoni's G-dly spirit is still-and-all not in control of his animalistic spirit other than occasionally, as when he manifests a love of G-d when he prays, and the like. But even then his G-dly spirit only manages to control and tamper down his animalistic spirit, and he continues on in his great and terrible struggle once again.

And that's because he would merely have subjected his untoward inlinations to his G-dly spirit's Binah mind-aspect and not his Chochma or Da'at ones (see 6:2 and note 2 there; and the end of 3:2). Which is to say that the benoni would have come to understand how important it is to draw close to G-d, but he wouldn't have completely assimilated the utter truth of that.

For Binah is the realm in which we're able to reflect upon G-d's infinite greatness (and upon how far from Him we'd strayed [Maskil L'Eitan]), and the one in which we can foster a fiery love for Him to be able to subdue the other side. But we'd need to call upon the deeper aspects of the G-dly spirit's mind-aspect we'd cited if we're to be a tzaddik.

In a way, then, a benoni's wrongfulness only "falls asleep" for all intents and purposes once in a while, as when he recites the Sh'ma or prays, when he can truly love G-d deeply [9]. For unlike the tzaddik who's love of G-d is part of his very being, the benoni is more attached to the world than to G-d, and he isn't really offput by wrongdoing or repulsed by the world, other than when he's deep in prayer or contemplation (Maskil L'Eitan).

In fact, that helps explain why the great Rabbah considered himself a benoni rather than a tzaddik (see 1:1) even though he never stopped studying Torah and so deeply loved G-d when he recited the Sh'ma or prayed. For though he knew those things about himself, he nonetheless only regarded himself as a benoni who prayed all day long at best, for all intents and purposes [10] ... which would certainly be a profound level of accomplishment.



[9] The yetzer harah could "awaken" right afterwards or fall right back to sleep, we're told. In fact it's been said that the yetzer harah gets bolder yet afterwards, much the way we're energized by a nap (Likut Perushim, Maareh Mekomot, p. 250).

[10] Some would suggest that Rabbah was wrong: that he *was* a tzaddik, but he was so humble and engrossed in Torah all the time that he didn't realize it (Maskil L'Eitan). But shouldn't he have been aware of his status as we're all expected to, as was pointed out in sect. 3 above? It would seem then that he wasn't a tzaddik and he knew that of himself only too well.

(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"