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Tanya for Monday, 4 Adar, 5778 - February 19, 2018

Tanya
As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 4 Adar

3 Adar, 5778 - February 18, 20185 Adar, 5778 - February 20, 2018


Anyone who has not attained this standard of waging such a strenuous war against his body, has not yet measured up to the quality and dimension of the war [waged daily within the kal shebekalim] against the evil nature which burns like a fiery flame, so that it [this powerful evil impulse) be humbled and broken through the fear of G-d.

[This, then, is the standard by which everyone must judge himself:

Does he battle against his evil impulse (during prayer, and similarly in the other areas of divine service that the Alter Rebbe will soon discuss), as intensely as the kal shebekalim must battle against his?]

So, too, with one's kavanah in the Grace after Meals and in the benedictions, whether those said prior to eating, or those recited before performing a mitzvah, [all of which requires a battle with one's evil impulse]; not to mention one's intention in performing a mitzvah - that it be done (solely) for the sake of a mitzvah, [i.e., for G-d's sake; this requires a still greater effort, and in this one will surely find himself wanting].

Similarly [with regard to the battle required] in the matter of one's occupation in Torah study, [one must struggle] to study far more than what is demanded by his innate or accustomed desire, by means of a mighty battle with his body.

[When one studies Torah only as much as his natural inclination or habituated diligence dictates, he requires no effort or struggle at all.

But in order to match the struggle of the kal shebekalim one must study far, far more than he would by nature or habit, as the Alter Rebbe continues]:

For to study a fraction more than is one's wont entails but a minor tussle. It neither parallels nor bears comparison with the war [of the kal shebekalim] against his evil impulse which burns like fire, for which he is nonetheless called utterly wicked (rasha gamur), if he does not conquer his impulse so that it be subdued and crushed before G-d.

[Similarly, unless one struggles with his evil impulse to study much more than his nature or habit demands, he is no less wicked than the kal shebekalim.

But one may object to this reasoning. How, one may say, can I in all honesty compare my shortcomings to those of the kal shebekalim?

I am lacking merely in the quality of the good that I do, whilst he actually and actively violates prohibitions enumerated in the Torah.

To this the Alter Rebbe counters]:

What difference is there between the category of "turn away from evil" - [in which the kal shebekalim fails, by active violation], and the category of "do good" - [in which HE fails, by neglecting to exert himself in prayer, Torah study and the like?

To be sure, there are differences between the two categories.

Each has its own unique spiritual effects, its own specific intentions.

But these differences pertain only to the *person* performing the mitzvah.

The essential point in a mitzvah, however, is that *it* [the Mitzvah] is an expression of the Will of the Only and Unique G-d, and in this there is no difference whatsoever between the two categories, as the Alter Rebbe continues].

Both are the commandments of the Holy King, the Only and Unique One, blessed be He.

[The failings of the observant individual in the quality of his prayer, Torah study, and so on, are therefore comparable to the transgressions of the kal shebekalim].

So, too, with other commandments [requiring a struggle, one may find that he does not wage war adequately against his evil impulse], especially in matters involving money, such as the service ("labor") of charity, [i.e., giving charity in a manner involving "labor" - far more than in his wont], and the like.

Even in the category of "turn away from evil," every thinking man can discover within himself that he does not turn completely and totally away from evil, in a situation requiring a battle of the level [i.e., magnitude] described above, [i.e., the battle required of the kal shebekalim], or even [in a situation requiring a battle] of a lesser magnitude.

For example, [he may find that he does not summon up the strength] to stop in the middle of a pleasant gossip, or [in the middle of relating a tale discrediting his fellow, [as he ought to do] even if it is a very slight slur, and even if it be true, and even though [his purpose in relating] it is to exonerate himself -

As is known from what Rabbi Shimon said to his father Rabbeinu HaKadosh [concerning a problematic bill of divorce that was improperly written]:

"I did not write it, Yehudah the tailor wrote it," [where the slur was a minor one, and the purpose was self vindication - and yet] his father replied: "Keep away from slander." (Note there in the Gemara, Tractate Bava Batra, [9] beginning of chapter 10.)

The same applies to very many similar things which occur frequently.

[There, too, one will find that he does not resist his evil impulse as he ought to, even in the category of "turn away from evil]."

This is especially true with regard to sanctifying oneself [by refraining from indulgence in] permitted matters - and this is a Biblical commandment, [10] derived from the verses: [11] "You shall be holy," and "Sanctify yourselves," etc.

Moreover, [even according to the opinion that this commandment is not of Biblical origin, yet [12] "Rabbinic enactments are even stricter than Biblical laws," etc. - [and yet one will often find himself succumbing to self-indulgence when the temptation is strong and requires a battle to overcome it].

But all these and similar matters are among [13] "the sins which people trample underfoot," [insensitive to their importance], and which have come to be regarded as permissible because they are committed repeatedly. [14]

[All the above-mentioned calculations, then, can lead one to conclude that he is no better than the kal shebekalim.

Like the kal shebekalim, he too fails to wage war against his evil impulse when it is required of him.

Yet this still does not explain the requirement that one consider oneself lower than every man. In what way is he WORSE than the kal shebekalim?

In answer, the Alter Rebbe continues]:

In truth, however, if he is a scholar and upholds G-d's Torah, and wishes to be close to G-d, his sin is unbearably great and his guilt is increased manifold for his not waging war and not overcoming his impulse in a manner commensurate with the quality and nature of the war mentioned above [that the kal shebekalim must face].

[His guilt is far greater] than the guilt of the kal shebekalim, the most worthless of the street-corner squatters, who are remote from G-d and His Torah.

Their guilt for not summoning up the fear of G-d Who knows and sees all their actions, in order to restrain their impulse which burns like a fiery flame, is not as heinous, as the guilt of one who draws ever nearer to G-d, His Torah and His service.

As our Sages of blessed memory said of [the apostate] "Acher", [Elisha ben Avuyah]: [15] "Because he knew My glory ....," [said G-d; if despite this he still sinned, his guilt is far greater].

Therefore our Sages declared in regard to the illiterate that [16] "Deliberate sins are regarded in their case as inadvertent acts," [since they are unaware of the gravity of their sins.

With a scholar, the reverse is true:

An oversight due to lack of study is adjudged as being as grave as a deliberate sin [17].

Thus, his failure to restrain his evil impulse is indeed worse than the failure of the kal shebekalim.

By contemplating this, the observant scholar will now be able to fulfill the instruction of the Mishnah (quoted at the beginning of this chapter): "Be lowly of spirit before every man."

Thereby he will crush his own spirit and the spirit of the sitra achra in his animal soul, enabling the light of his soul to permeate and irradiate his body, as explained in chapter 29.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) 164b.

  2. (Back to text) See ch. 27.

  3. (Back to text) Vayikra 19:2; 20:7.

  4. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 88b

  5. (Back to text) Avodah Zara 18a

  6. (Back to text) Yoma 86b

  7. (Back to text) Chagiga 15a In fourth Marginal Gloss by the Bach.

  8. (Back to text) Bava Metzia 33b

  9. (Back to text) Avot 4:13



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