Judaism: Weekly Tanya Lesson: Chap. 1, Part 3
אך ביאור העני
However, the explanation of the matter, so that we better understand the levels of tzaddik and Beinoni, as well as the various gradations within their ranks,
על פי מה שכתב הרב חיים ויטאל ז״ל בשער הקדושה ובע׳ חיים שער נ׳ פרק ב׳
[is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote inShaar HaKedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 50, ch. 2) —
דלכל איש ישראל אחד צדיק ואחד רשע יש שתי נשמות
that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls,
וכדכתיב: ונשמות אני עשיתי,
as it is written,5 “And neshamot (souls) which I have made.”
Though the verse speaks of an individual Jew (as is indicated by the singular form of the word ruach (spirit) in the preceding phrase, “When the spirit of a manwhich emanates from Me will be humbled…”), the plural term souls is nevertheless used, indicating that every Jew possesses two souls.
שהן שתי נפשות
These are two nefashot6 — two souls and life-forces.
נפש אחת מצד הקליפה וסטרא אחרא
One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.
“Kelipah” means a shell or peel. G-d created forces which conceal the G-dly life-force found in all creation as a peel covers and conceals a fruit. “Sitra achra”means “the other side” — the side of creation that is the antithesis of holiness and purity. (The two terms are generally synonymous.)
והיא המתלבשת בדם האדם להחיות הגוף
It is this nefesh (which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra) that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body;
וכדכתיב: כי נפש הבשר בדם היא
as it is written,7 “For the nefesh of the flesh (i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life) is in the blood.”
וממנה באות כל המדות רעות מארבעה יסודות רעים שבה
From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.
Just as the four physical elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the foundation of all physical entities, so too is this nefesh comprised of four corresponding spiritual elements. Since they derive from kelipah and evil, they themselves are evil, and from them in turn one’s evil characteristics come into being.
דהיינו: כעס וגאוה מיסוד האש שנגבה למעלה
Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards;
Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.
ותאות התענוגים מיסוד המים, כי המים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג
the appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.
The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.
והוללות וליצנות והתפארות ודברים בטלים מיסוד הרוח
frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; like air, they lack substance;
ועצלות ועצבות מיסוד העפר
and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.
Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.
וגם מדות טובות שבטבע כל ישראל בתולדותם, כמו רחמנות וגמילות חסדים, באות ממנה
From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew’s character, such as compassion and benevolence.
But since this is a nefesh of kelipah and evil, how do good characteristics come from it? This matter is now addressed.
כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב
For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from the kelipah called “nogah”, which also contains good; and the good within this nefesh gives rise to these positive natural traits.
והיא מסוד ע׳ הדעת טוב ורע
[This kelipah] is from the esoteric “Tree of Knowledge” [which is comprised] of good and evil.8
מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל
The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever,
כמו שכתוב בע׳ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין
as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.
Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.
וכדאיתא בגמרא על פסוק: וחסד לאומים חטאת — שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות העולם עושין אינן אלא להתייהר כו׳
When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.
Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive — the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.
It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah.11 Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.
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.