Judaism: Weekly Tanya Class: Chapter 2, Class 4
HaRav Shneur Zalman MiliadiRav Shneur Zalman (September 4, 1745 – December 15, 1812) of Liadi, was the founder of Chabad hassidism and the author of many works, among them Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Tanya and the Siiddur Torah Or . Chabad became a worldwide Jewish spiritual outreach movement.
והפושעים ומורדים בתלמידי חכמים
(22As for those who willfully sin and rebel against the Torah sages: How do they receive their spiritual nurture and life? Spiritual life and nurture flow only where there is a desire to nurture and give life. In answer to this, the text continues: folowing
יניקת נפש רוח ונשמה שלהם מבחינת אחוריים של נפש רוח ונשמת תלמידי חכמים
the nurture of their Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah comes from the hind-part, as it were, of the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah of the scholars.)
Nurture from “the hind-part” can be understood by way of comparison to one who gives an object to his enemy — obviously, not out of a true desire to give, but rather due to some external factor. The grudging reluctance with which he gives will be reflected in his manner; he will turn away from him, tossing the object to his enemy over his shoulder. The same is true in the spiritual sphere. When spiritual nurture is given unwillingly, it is described as coming from “the hind-part” of the giver — an external level of nurture.
Nevertheless, even those who rebel against the sages receive some measure of spiritual nourishment from them. For every soul, without exception, must be bound up with its root and source, as explained earlier. The level of nurture they receive, is however from the “hind-part” of the souls of the sages.
Having23 concluded that every Jew has a holy soul which emanates “from above” (from Supernal Wisdom), the Alter Rebbe now states that even the quality (the “rank” or “level”) of each individual soul is determined only by factors “from above” — spiritual factors, such as the soul’s above-mentioned descent through Hishtalshelut. No actions of this physical world can determine its quality and rank. The Alter Rebbe makes this statement indirectly by clarifying a quotation from the Zohar which seems to indicate the contrary.
ומה שכתוב בזהר ובזהר חדש שהעיקר תלוי שיקדש עצמו בשעת תשמיש דוקא
As for what is written in the Zohar24 and in Zohar Chadash25 that the essential factor is to conduct oneself in a holy manner during sexual union,
מה שאין כן בני עמי הארץ כו׳
which is not the case with the children of the ignorant and their ilk who do not conduct themselves thus,
The ignorant — as the Zohar goes on to imply — draw down for their child a soul of a lower level, which seems to indicate that an action occurring in this physical world can, in fact, affect the soul’s level. Not so, declares the Alter Rebbe. The Zohar is not referring to the soul at all, but to the soul’s spiritual “garment” — as follows:
היינו משום שאין לך נפש רוח ונשמה שאין לה לבוש מנפש דעצמות אביו ואמו
this is because no Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah is without a garment which stems from the Nefesh of its father’s and mother’s essence.
וכל המצות שעושה, הכל על ידי אותו הלבוש כו׳, ואפילו השפע שנותנים לו מן השמים, הכל הוא על ידי לבוש זה
All the commandments that it fulfills are influenced by that garment — it is through this garment that the soul achieves its ability to affect the body and to perform the commandments involving physical matters; even the benevolence that flows to one from heaven is all given through that garment. Because the soul is so strongly bound up with this garment, the Zohar refers to the garment, in this context, as the person’s “soul”.
ואם יקדש את עצמו, ימשיך לבוש קדוש לנשמת בנו
Now, if the person sanctifies himself, he will bring forth a holy garment for theneshamah of his child, thereby enabling the child to serve G-d more readily.
ואפילו היא נשמה גדולה, צריכה לקידוש אביו כו׳
However great a soul it may be, it still needs the father’s sanctification at the time of intercourse.
אבל הנשמה עצמה, הנה לפעמים נשמת אדם גבוה לאין קץ בא להיות בנו של אדם נבזה ושפל כו׳
But the soul itself as distinct from its “garment” is not affected by the parents‘ sanctification; in fact it sometimes happens that the soul of an infinitely lofty person comes to be the son of an ignoble and lowly person.
כמו שכתב האר״י ז״ל כל זה בליקוטי תורה פרשת וירא, ובטעמי מצות פרשת בראשית
All this has been explained by Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, in Likutei Torah on Parshat Vayera, and in Taamei HaMitzvot on Parshat Bereishit.
Thus the physical world — of which the parents are a part — can in no way affect the soul’s spiritual rank. Even the statement of the Zohar that the essential factor regarding the state of the soul is the holy manner of conduct during sexual union, pertains only to the soul’s “garment”. The soul itself, with all its various levels, emanates “from above.”
22.Parentheses are in the original text.
23.This interpretation of the following passage of Tanya follows a comment of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. This paragraph forms (for the most part) a translation of this comment.
24.See Zohar II, 204b; III, 80-82.
25.Bereishit, p. 11.