Weekly Tanya lecture: Chapter 34, Class #4, Opening of Chapter 35

Tanya is a recipe for spiritual health.

Contact Editor
HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi,

Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady
Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady
Archives

From the end of Ch. 30 up to this point, the Alter Rebbe discussed various forms of joy which one ought to strive to attain when saddened over his spiritual shortcomings: the joy of one’s soul on its being released from exile within one’s body and animal soul; the joy of being close to G‑d through awareness of His unity; the joy occasioned by contemplating G‑d’s joy in the crushing of the sitra achra; and so on. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that all these forms of joy do not conflict with the bitter remorse and sadness that one experiences over one’s spiritual failings. For, although joy and sadness are opposites, they can nonetheless coexist when each has its own, distinct cause.

והנה בכל פרטי מיני שמחות הנפש הנ״ל, אין מהן מניעה להיות נבזה בעיניו נמאס ולב נשבר ורוח נמוכה בשעת השמחה ממש

All the specific types of joy enumerated above do not preclude one from being shamed and despised in his own eyes, or from having a broken heart and a humble spirit, even at the very time of his joy.

מאחר כי היותו נבזה בעיניו וכו׳, הוא מצד הגוף ונפש הבהמית

For the shame and so on is prompted by [one’s awareness of the lowliness of] his body and animal soul,

והיותו בשמחה הוא מצד נפש האלקית וניצוץ אלקות המלובש בה להחיותה, כנ״ל בפרק ל״א

while his joy is felt on account of his divine soul, and the animating spark of G‑dliness clothed within it, as mentioned above (in ch. 31).

וכהאי גוונא איתא בזהר: בכיה תקיעא בלבאי מסטרא דא, וחדוה תקיעא בלבאי מסטרא דא

We find a similar statement in the Zohar:14 “Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart, and joy is lodged in the other.”

Rabbi Elazar exclaimed these words upon hearing from his father, Rabbi Shimon, an esoteric exposition on the destruction of the Temple. On the one hand, he now felt even more keenly the enormity of the tragedy; on the other hand he was filled with joy over the secrets of Torah being revealed to him.

We thus see from the Zohar that two opposite emotions, stemming from separate causes, can exist in one’s heart side by side.

——— ● ———

Opening of Chapter 35

Before beginning ch. 35, it will be worthwhile to note once again that the Tanya is based on the verse, “For the matter (of observing Torah and mitzvot) is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

This verse asserts that the Torah is easily fulfilled through all of man’s three forms of expression (also called the “garments of the soul”): thought (“in your heart”), speech (“in your mouth”) and action (“that you may do it”). In a deeper sense, the phrase “in your heart” refers also to the emotions of love and fear of G‑d; they, too, are “very near to you,” i.e., easily attainable.

Concerning this latter statement, the Alter Rebbe points out (in ch. 17) that this claim appears contrary to our experience; in fact, it is by no means an easy matter for us to acquire the love and fear of G‑d.

In answer, he explains that the phrase “that you may do it” qualifies and describes the emotions intended in the words “in your heart,” thus: What sort of love and fear of G‑d is “very near to you... in your heart?” — The love and fear which serve to motivate one’s practical observance of the mitzvot (even though such love and fear are not experienced in the heart as fiery spiritual emotions). Intellectual contemplation of G‑d’s greatness will lead one to an intellectual appreciation (“love”) of G‑d, and an awe (“fear”) of Him, which will in turn affect the heart (since, by nature, the mind rules the heart). The heart will then be motivated and will resolve to observe all the mitzvot in the spirit of this “love” or “fear”.

The Alter Rebbe then went on to say that even he who is not suited to such intellectual contemplation may also attain a love and fear of G‑d by revealing the natural love hidden in the heart of every Jew. This love also contains an element of fear, the fear of separation from G‑dliness. Thus, it is indeed “very near” and easy to serve G‑d “in one’s heart,” i.e., out of both the love and fear of G‑d.

Yet, from the wording of the verse (“It is very near to you... in your mouth, and... heart, that you may do it”) it is evident that however necessary the love and fear of G‑d may be, the actual, practical observance of the mitzvot is paramount. In the following chapters the Alter Rebbe explains the superiority of the practical aspect of mitzvot over this seemingly more “spiritual” aspect.

It is also important to bear in mind the Alter Rebbe’s definition of the rank ofBeinoni: The Beinoni is he who is not guilty of any sin, whether in action, in speech, or even in thought.

The inner evil of his animal soul, however, retains its native strength, and is capable of arousing forbidden desires in his heart; only by constant vigilance does the Beinoni prevent these desires from finding expression in his actions, words and (conscious) thoughts.

והנה, לתוספת ביאור תיבת לעשותו

Let us elucidate still further the term “that you may do it,” in the verse, “For the matter is very near to you in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it,” where, as mentioned, the climax of the verse is its emphasis on action.

FOOTNOTES                                

14.  II, 255a; III, 75a.






top