Judaism: New Feature: Weeky Tanya Lesson
Likkutei Amarim or “Tanya”, was written over 200 years ago by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, also known as Baal HaTanya and "the Rav"; as among his many works is Shulkhan Arutkh HaRav (a Code of Jewish Law).
"Tanya" comprises five sections that define hassidic mystical psychology and theology as a handbook for daily spiritual life.
It is the first and most fundamental book of hassidic philosophy, and presents a systematic way to refine ones character.
The goal set out in the work is to achieve the level of “Beinoni”, literally an intermediate person, but redefined in the Tanya to mean one who is created as an “average person” but achieves a superior level of commitment to God through constant struggle.
If you seek compelling answers to life’s great questions, Tanya is the place to find them.
Among the topics:
Is G-d knowable?
What is our purpose in life?
Why is life such a struggle?
Why is my inner self full of contradictions?
Does the universe really "exist" or is it all an illusion?
How to deal with my anger, jealousy, anxiety and despair?
The Tanya, first published in 1797, compacts four millennia of Jewish wisdom to answer the great personal and existential questions of life. It has revolutionized the way we think about G -d the human soul, the world and our place in it.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, was the great-grandson of the mystic and philosopher Rabbi Judah Loew. the "Maharal of Prague, and the youngest disciple of Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch, the "Great Maggid", who was in turn the successor of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov.
Chapter 1, Part 1:
The title page of Tanya is transliterated and translated below:
SEFER (holy book)
LIKUTEI AMARIM (“A Compilation of Teachings”)
ENTITLED SEFER SHEL BEINONIM (“The Book of the Intermediates”)
Compiled from sacred books and from teachers of heavenly saintliness, whose souls are in Paradise; based upon the verse, “For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it”; explaining clearly how it (the Torah way of life, ed.) is exceedingly near, [to be reached] in both a lengthy and a short way, with the aid of the Holy One, blessed be He.
This verse, upon which the Tanya is based, alludes to the obligation to fulfil G‑d’s commandments, saying that it is very “near”, i.e., accessible, to every Jew to do so — through three channels, which are here alluded to by the three phrases, “your heart,” “your mouth,” and “to do it.” These phrases represent, respectively, the three faculties of thought, speech and action. These are, as it were, the functional organs of the soul; the soul vests itself in them in order to implement its wishes.
In a deeper sense, “your heart” refers to the emotions — experienced in the heart — of love of G‑d and awe of Him.
When man fulfills a mitzvah out of his love of G‑d, knowing that the only way to unite with Him is by fulfilling His commands, he will do so with an inner vitality and pleasure, just as one does when he fulfills the wishes of a dear friend. The love of G‑d is thus a channel for the performance of the positive mitzvot.
On the other hand, one’s awe of G‑d will prevent him from acting in violation of His wishes. He who is pervaded by this sense of awe will be most vigilant in avoiding any transgression of the prohibitive mitzvot.
The verse thus declares that acquiring these two emotions of love and awe of G‑d, so that they motivate one’s observance of the mitzvot, is likewise “very near to you.”
This declaration is the basis of the Tanya.
The Alter Rebbe now sets out to explain, in both a lengthy and a brief way, how it is very near.
By nature, man’s heart desires material things. To develop a love and a desire for G‑dliness is actually to shift one’s natural desire from one extreme - worldliness, to another - G‑dliness. Nor is awe of G‑d easily attainable. As the Gemara attests, “Is awe of G‑d such a small matter” How then does the verse state that it is, indeed, “very near to you”
The Alter Rebbe will explain two ways by which the attainment of love and fear is very "near": one way is “lengthy”, and the other “brief”.
The lengthy route is contemplation; by pondering deeply on the greatness of G‑d and His kindness, one will generate within himself a love and awe of Him.
The shorter route consists of arousing and bringing to the surface the hidden love and awe of G‑d inherent in the soul of every Jew; it is “short” because in this case he does not create these feelings but merely reveals them.
This, then, is the basis of the Tanya.
In his modesty, the Alter Rebbe named the book Likutei Amarim — “A Compilation of Teachings,” claiming that he did no more than collect teachings “from books and teachers.” Hassidic tradition understands “books” as a reference to the works of the Maharal, and the Shelah, and “teachers” such as the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch.
The book is popularly called Tanya, for the word with which it begins.