6 weeks. 1 letter. Why?

Submitted by Rabbi Yossi Nemes

In the Rebbe’s Reshimos of Tanya  a letter of the FR is referenced  that includes the story about the Maharil, the Alter Rebbe’s brother, coming into the AR study during the time period he was writing the Tanya. The Maharil found the AR with a pen in his hand and in a state of devikus – deep meditative thought. After an hour the AR looked up and said that it’s already the third week that he is debating whether to write a word in Tanya (Chapter 41 V’ikra) with a Vov or without a Vov. The AR said that “on a vov of Beinonim one can ponder for six weeks until it becomes one with one self.”

Why did it take the Alter Rebbe six weeks to decide a vov in Tanya. Was it due to the perfect Dikduk needed in such a work? Well certainly a master in Dikduk like the AR does not need six weeks to figure out a vov. Obviously it has to do with the centrality of the Tanya, Torah Shebksav Of CHassidus, to our lives. Still one could ask why the need for six weeks on one Vov and what is this unusual expression ‘for a vov in Beinonim…’
One can say that the six weeks were needed to establish Tanya in a way that relates to every person in his generation. Furthermore what makes Tanya truly unique, thus needing such a high level of concentration in the writing of every letter, is (see Likutte Sichos vol. 26) that the Alter Rebbe wrote the Tanya tailor made to everyone learning Tanya in whatever generation it may be.
So ‘for a vov in Beinonim’ means that for the aspiring Beinonim of all generations, the AR addresses us as individuals.
Tanya is not only still relevant, like everything in Torah which is timeless, but it’s lessons are personal and Tanya addresses our particular challenges and situations.  This is true whether our name is Reb Hillel of Paritch or Bob Goldberg who lives in Peoria and is learning Tanya for the first time.

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Chapter 9-10: The ultimate struggle. Who are you?

In a fascinating article Rabbi Simon Jacobson explains the application of Tanya’s presentation of the struggle between G-dly and animal souls and how this gives a fresh perspective of who you are and what is at your disposal for your personal struggles.

Click here for full article.

All that is speculation. Let’s get back to history.

Preceding all these thinkers, was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s psychological model, which is defined by three revolutionary principles:

1/ Human self-control is inherent, not acquired.

2/ The essence of a human is good and Divine; the Yid, not the Id.

3/ Even mans’ intrinsic self and selfishness (“itness”) is rooted in the Essence of the Divine Self.

Here’s a brief overview of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s model.

A person carries two voices, two souls: The animal soul and the Divine one. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “The human spirit ascends on high; the spirit of the beast descends down into the earth.” They are in constant struggle, with the animal soul seeking instant gratification and pleasure (like the Id), and the Divine soul seeking transcendence and unity. The animal spirit wants to be “more animal,” hence more self-ego. The Divine spirit wants to be “more Divine,” more selfless.

The domain of the animal manifests in the impulsive emotions, while the domain of the Divine spirit rests in the reflective mind, which can control and temper impulsive reactions. A young child for instance, is controlled entirely by emotion, and yells out “I want it and I want it all now.” Similarly the animal within us selfishly barks “give, give.” As our minds develop we gain the ability to reflect, repress, temper or channel our impulses.

The question of course is, as mentioned earlier, which is our most dominant force?

The answer is the Divine soul. The inner good in man is the most dominant force in our lives. Yet, this force is locked in battle with the animal soul. We have the freedom and the ability to overcome any temptation if we so wish through self control (“moach shalit al halev,” the mind’s dominance over the emotions).

Self Control

An argument can be made that self-control is an acquired skill that comes later in life, and is superimposed over the inherent impulses of the heart. And as a rule, an acquired skill will never be as powerful as an inherent one. It can dominate for a while, but when “push comes to shove,” and survival is at stake, we will gravitate to the inherent.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman categorically rejects that argument, and unequivocally states that the power of self-control is natural and inherent to the human being. We are born with that quality. But like other talents, kit takes time for it to emerge in our lives. As our mind develops, it brings out our inherent self-control.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman actually supports this with a verse in Ecclesiastes, which equates the dominance of the mind over folly [of the impulsive heart] to the natural dominance of light over darkness. Unlike fire and water, two equal adversaries, which have the power to extinguish each other, light naturally dispels darkness.

All that is speculation. Let’s get back to history.

Preceding all these thinkers, was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s psychological model, which is defined by three revolutionary principles:

1/ Human self-control is inherent, not acquired.

2/ The essence of a human is good and Divine; the Yid, not the Id.

3/ Even mans’ intrinsic self and selfishness (“itness”) is rooted in the Essence of the Divine Self.

Here’s a brief overview of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s model.

A person carries two voices, two souls: The animal soul and the Divine one. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “The human spirit ascends on high; the spirit of the beast descends down into the earth.” They are in constant struggle, with the animal soul seeking instant gratification and pleasure (like the Id), and the Divine soul seeking transcendence and unity. The animal spirit wants to be “more animal,” hence more self-ego. The Divine spirit wants to be “more Divine,” more selfless.

The domain of the animal manifests in the impulsive emotions, while the domain of the Divine spirit rests in the reflective mind, which can control and temper impulsive reactions. A young child for instance, is controlled entirely by emotion, and yells out “I want it and I want it all now.” Similarly the animal within us selfishly barks “give, give.” As our minds develop we gain the ability to reflect, repress, temper or channel our impulses.

The question of course is, as mentioned earlier, which is our most dominant force?

The answer is the Divine soul. The inner good in man is the most dominant force in our lives. Yet, this force is locked in battle with the animal soul. We have the freedom and the ability to overcome any temptation if we so wish through self control (“moach shalit al halev,” the mind’s dominance over the emotions).

Self Control

An argument can be made that self-control is an acquired skill that comes later in life, and is superimposed over the inherent impulses of the heart. And as a rule, an acquired skill will never be as powerful as an inherent one. It can dominate for a while, but when “push comes to shove,” and survival is at stake, we will gravitate to the inherent.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman categorically rejects that argument, and unequivocally states that the power of self-control is natural and inherent to the human being. We are born with that quality. But like other talents, kit takes time for it to emerge in our lives. As our mind develops, it brings out our inherent self-control.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman actually supports this with a verse in Ecclesiastes, which equates the dominance of the mind over folly [of the impulsive heart] to the natural dominance of light over darkness. Unlike fire and water, two equal adversaries, which have the power to extinguish each other, light naturally dispels darkness…..

Chapter 10: Why talk about a tzaddik?

Tanya Take-Away by: Mayer Prager

In chapter ten of Tanya it explains the level of a Tzaddik:

“…When a person causes his divine soul to prevail over the animal soul, and when he wages war against the animal soul to the extent that he banishes and eradicates its evil from its abode within him…”

Learning this I was left with the following questions:

1.       Is Tanya demanding that I achieve a level where I would have no bad side, no issues that I need to resolve, that I should be PERFECT like a Tzaddik?

2.       The Tanya is a self help book, what “help” is there in knowing that there are Tzaddikim that don’t have any issues at all?

It is my belief that every one of us has three sides. A perfect/beautiful side – Tzaddik, a struggling side – Beinoni and a wicked/bad side – Rasha. So, throughout the Tanya whenever it is explaining any of these three levels, it is talking about a part of me.

 With this premise in mind we can better understand the technique that the Tanya would like for us to employ in bettering our “other” side, the side that is struggling and needs help:

“…This love will rise from the depths of the heart… indeed, filled to overflowing …andwould thus inundate the left part [of the heart] as well, to crush the sitra achra;specifically the animal soul…meaning the lust emanating from kelipat…”

The way to “fix” a bad trait is NOT by degradation, self-abasement or any other NEGATIVE system – It is by BUILDING on your existing GOOD (Tzaddik) side, i.e. One loves to have guests and loves to be gracious to others, but when it comes to learning – Is “not interested”,  “doesn’t have patience” to learn…

Build on your “GOOD” side, invite others to an “Eat & Learn” night. The more you see your guests enjoying the food and enlightened by the learning, not only will you appreciate the host part but the learning part as well – whereby chipping away at the “learning block”

Stop focusing on your negative side, the only thing that comes out of negative is negative.

Find your good side and build with it, If you want a positive change STAY POSITIVE.

Welcome

In honor of the 200th Yahtrtzeit of the Alter Rebbe, I thought it would be appropriate to create a website where people can post and others can read relevant applications of the concepts presented on every page of Tanya.

For too long, and from too many, young and old alike, we hear how they do not find a voice for them in the Tanya. It doesn’t talk to OUR generation.

What a shame. The Torah shebeksav of Chassidus is so misunderstood and relegated to a great philosophy at best, and irrelevant to others.

We need to change that!

There are so many brilliant essays, commentaries and thoughts circulating out there which draw very practical applications of the lessons in Tanya. So many people who study chitas, think about the daily shiur of Tanya, do in fact apply it to their lives in so many different ways.

Well, now is the time to share your ideas with others. As the the Alter Rebbe writes in the hakdomoh of Tanya “al tehie monei bar” and share, you never know who you may touch with your personal lessons.

Yo may submit a post anonymously or with a name. as long as it is relevant and “oisgehalten” it will be published beli neder.

This is a website which will be “melukat m’pi emails and websites” so that we can draw from the broadest resources to the broadest audiences and bring the maayonois to as many people as possible.

This is a simple blog and will iy”h develop as we go on. But for now, in z’chus of this holy day let’s get it started.