Ch. 35, Class # 1

Beginning of Chapter 35

Before beginning ch. 35, it will be worthwhile to note once again that theTanya 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.

וגם להבין מעט מזעיר תכלית בריאת הבינונים

Let us also understand [at least] in a very small measure, the purpose in creating Beinonim — to be, and remain forever on the level of Beinonim; for as explained in ch. 14, the souls of the Beinonim are usually incapable of rising to the level of tzaddikthrough their own will and effort: they were created to be Beinonim;

וירידת נשמותיהם לעולם הזה, להתלבש בנפש הבהמית שמהקליפה וסטרא אחרא

also, [the purpose of] their souls‘ descent to this world, being clothed within an animal soul deriving from the kelipah and sitra achra, the very antithesis of the (divine) soul.

מאחר שלא יוכלו לשלחה כל ימיהם, ולדחותה ממקומה מחלל השמאלי שבלב

Since they will not be able to banish [the animal soul] throughout their lives, nor [even] dislodge it from its place in the left part of the heart,

שלא יעלו ממנה הרהורים אל המוח

so that no [evil] imaginings rise from it to the brain,

כי מהותה ועצמותה של נפש הבהמית שמהקליפה היא בתקפה ובגבורתה אצלם כתולדתה

inasmuch as in the Beinonim, the essence of the animal soul derived from thekelipah remains in its full strength and potency as at birth,

רק שלבושיה אינם מתלבשים בגופם כנ״ל

except that its “garments”, i.e., its forms of expression as evil thought, speech and action,do not clothe themselves in their body, as mentioned above — in ch. 12, where the Alter Rebbe explains that by means of constant battle with his animal soul, the Beinoniprevents the budding evil of this soul from expressing itself in his thought, speech and action.

However, since the Beinoni succeeds only in suppressing the “garments” of the animal soul, but can never, despite all his efforts, effect any change in the essential, evil nature of the animal soul itself, the question arises:

ואם כן, למה זה ירדו נשמותיהם לעולם הזה ליגע לריק, חס ושלום, להלחם כל ימיהם עם היצר, ולא יכלו לו

Why then did their souls descend to this world, to strive in vain, G‑d forbid; waging war all their lives against their evil inclination, yet never being able to vanquish it?

It was explained in the previous chapters that the ongoing battle waged by the Beinoni in preventing his evil inclination from asserting itself in thought, speech and action causes prodigious pleasure Above. How then can we complain that the battle is in vain? Yet, were this divine pleasure the sole object of the battle, there would be no reason for having the divine soul clothed withinthe animal soul; on the contrary, the two souls ought then be separate and distinct from each other, so that whenever the divine soul emerges victorious from a particular struggle (against the desire of the animal soul to act or speak evilly), it would then act alone, without the participation of the animal soul. Since the divine soul is clothed within the animal soul, the objective obviously lies in perfecting the animal soul itself. From this perspective, the battle of the Beinonidoes indeed seem futile, since all his efforts have no effect on the evil nature of the animal soul.

ותהי זאת נחמתם לנחמם בכפליים לתושיה, ולשמח לבם בה׳ השוכן אתם בתוך תורתם ועבודתם

Let this forthcoming explanation be their solace, to comfort them in a double measure of aid, and to gladden their hearts in G‑d Who dwells amongst them in their Torah and [divine] service. I.e., the explanation will show them how to find comfort and joy in the G‑dly light that abides within them when they study the Torah and when they engage in the service of G‑d.

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FOOTNOTES
1. Zohar III, 187a.