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Tanya for Thursday, 24 Kislev, 5784 - December 7, 2023

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 24 Kislev

23 Kislev, 5784 - December 6, 202325 Kislev, 5784 - December 8, 2023

Chapter One

We have learned (Niddah, end of ch. 3): [1]. "An oath is administered to him: [Before a Jew is born an oath is administered to him in heaven, charging him]:

`Be righteous and be not wicked; and even if the whole world [judging you by your actions] tells you that you are righteous, regard yourself as wicked.'"

[The soul of a Jew descends into a body for a purpose - in order to fulfill a specific spiritual mission in this world. To enable him to fulfill it a heavenly oath is administered to him that he "be righteous and not wicked," and concurrently, that he regard himself as wicked and not righteous.

The root (Shin Bet Ayin) of the verb Mashbi-im ("an oath is administered") is virtually identical with the root (Shin Bet Ayin) of the verb Masbi-im ("one causes [him] to be sated").

Accordingly, the oath charging him to be righteous may also be understood to mean that the soul is thereby invested ("sated") with the power that enables it to fulfill its destiny in life on earth.]

This requires to be understood, for we have learned in the Mishnah [Avot, ch. 2], [2] "Be not wicked in your own estimation."

[How, then, can we say that an oath is administered to the soul that it regard itself as wicked, when this directly contradicts the Mishnaic injunction not to regard oneself as wicked?] [3]

Furthermore, if a person considers himself wicked, he will be grieved at heart and depressed, and consequently will not be able to serve G-d joyfully and with a contented heart;

[Apart from the previously mentioned contradiction from the Mishnah, an additional question is now raised. A cardinal principle in the service of G-d is that it be performed with joy - joy at the privilege of serving Him either through performing a positive command or by refraining from that which is prohibited.

How then can one be required to take an oath to consider himself wicked, when this will cause him to be depressed, making it impossible for him to serve G-d with joy?

Furthermore, just as the first part of the oath, "Be righteous and be not wicked," is vital to his success in realizing his life's mission, so too the fulfillment of the second part of the oath, that he consider himself wicked, is imperative. How can this possibly be so, when such an attitude hinders his joyful service of G-d?]

While if his heart will not be at all grieved by this self-appraisal,

[I.e., if we should propose that in order to fulfill the oath the person will indeed regard himself as wicked, but at the same time will resolve that his wickedness shall not perturb him, so as not to encumber his joyful service of G-d,] he may be led to irreverence, G-d forbid, [by such an attitude, with sin perturbing him not at all.

For although his original resolve that being wicked will not perturb him stems only from his sincere desire to serve G-d with joy, yet such a resolution may very well lead to a situation where wickedness will truly not disturb him.]

However, the [above] matter [will be more clearly understood after a preliminary discussion of the true meaning of "righteous" and "wicked".]

We find in the Gemara [4] five distinct types: a righteous man who prospers, [materially as well as spiritually - he knows only good]; a righteous man who suffers,[ in both a material as well as spiritual sense: spiritually, he has not yet vanquished all his evil, and in the material sense too he is wanting]; a wicked man [in whom there is some good and] who prospers; a wicked man who suffers [spiritually and materially]; and an intermediate man - the Beinoni.

The Gemara explains: "the righteous man who prospers" is the consummate lit., ["complete"] tzaddik; [Once he has achieved this level, physical suffering - to cleanse the soul from the impurities of sin - is unnecessary; he therefore prospers materially as well], the "righteous man who suffers" is the imperfect [lit., "incomplete" tzaddik. [He therefore experiences some measure of material suffering, thereby cleansing the soul while it is yet clothed in the body, so that he will not have to endure any spiritual suffering in the World to Come.

Accordingly, the Gemara is not referring to two tzaddikim on the same spiritual level, one of whom prospers while the other suffers; rather, it speaks of two distinct levels of tzaddikim. The Gemara thus cites only two characterizations regarding the tzaddik - "consummate" and "imperfect" (lit., "complete" and "incomplete"). The terms "who prospers" or "who suffers" do not indicate his spiritual level: they merely describe his resultant material status.]

In Ra'aya Mehemna (Parshat Mishpatim) [5] it is explained that "the righteous man who suffers" is one whose evil [nature] is subservient to his good [nature]. [6]

[He is a tzaddik who still retains some vestige of evil, albeit subservient to his good nature. Accordingly, a "righteous man who prospers" is a tzaddik in whom there is only good, since he has totally transformed his evil nature.

According to the Zohar (of which Ra'aya Mehemna is a part), the terms "who prospers" and "who suffers" also indicate and describe the level of the tzaddik. The "tzaddik who prospers" is a tzaddik in whom there is only good - the evil within him having already been transformed to good; the "tzaddik who suffers" is a tzaddik of lower stature - one who still harbors some evil.

However, we must now understand why redundant titles are given to each level of tzaddik: "complete tzaddik" and "tzaddik who prospers"; "incomplete tzaddik" and "tzaddik who suffers." If the "complete tzaddik" is the "tzaddik who prospers" (i.e., in whom there is only good) and the "incomplete tzaddik" is the "tzaddik who suffers" (i.e., retains a vestige of evil), why then is it necessary to give each tzaddik two appellations?

The explanation provided further (in ch. 10) is that each descriptive term denotes a specific aspect of the divine service of the tzaddik.

The terms "complete tzaddik" and "incomplete tzaddik" denote the level of service of the tzaddik's G-dly soul, i.e., the tzaddik's love of G-d, for it is by virtue of this love that he is called "tzaddik." The "complete tzaddik" is he who has attained perfection in his love of G-d in a manner of ahavah betaanugim ("love of delights") - the serene love of fulfillment. The tzaddik whose ahavah betaanugim is as yet imperfect is called the "incomplete (or unperfected) tzaddik."

The terms "tzaddik who prospers" and "tzaddik who suffers" denote the tzaddik's status vis-a-vis his efforts in transforming his animal soul to holiness. For the tzaddik, through his lofty service of ahavah betaanugim, transforms the evil within him into holiness and good. The designation "tzaddik who prospers" indicates that he has already totally transformed the evil within him and now good alone remains, while the "tzaddik who suffers" is one who has not yet managed to totally transform the evil within him to good; a vestige of it still remains.

The explanations that follow make it abundantly clear that the evil referred to here is no more than an amorphous evil still harbored in the heart of the "incomplete tzaddik." For the tzaddik has no association with actual evil that manifests itself in thought or speech, and most certainly not with the evil that finds expression in actions.

In the Gemara (end of ch. 9 of Berachot [7]) [it is stated] that the righteous are "judged" [i.e., motivated and ruled] by their good nature, [their good nature having the final say]; the wicked are judged [i.e., motivated and ruled] by their evil nature, [their evil nature having the final say]; intermediate men are "judged" by both [the good and evil nature]. [8]

Rabbah declared: "I, for example, am a `Beinoni'." Said Abbaye to him, "Master, you make it impossible for any creature to live..."

[Abbaye argued thus: "If you are a Beinoni, then all those on a lower level than you fall into the category of the wicked, concerning whom our Sages say: [9] `The wicked, even while alive, are considered dead.' By calling yourself a Beinoni you thus make it impossible for anyone to live."]

To understand all the aforesaid clearly [an explanation is called for].

[In addition to the question which will soon follow - that according to the common conception of a Beinoni as a person having half mitzvot and half transgressions, how could a great sage like Rabbah mistake himself for a Beinoni - a further question is implied:

If a Beinoni is simply one having half mitzvot and half transgressions then his status is readily identifiable, and there is no possible room for debate.]

And also to understand the statement of Job [Bava Batra ch. 1] [10]: "L-rd of the Universe! You have created righteous men, You have created wicked men,...." for He does not decree [which persons are to be] righteous and wicked.

[The Gemara [11] relates that G-d decrees that a child about to be born will be wise or foolish, strong or weak, and so on. However, whether the child will be righteous or wicked G-d does not say: this is not predetermined; rather, it is left to the individual's free choice.

How, then, are we to understand Job's plaint, "You have created righteous men, You have created wicked men"? [12]]

We must also understand the essential nature (mahut) of the rank of the Beinoni.

[The mahut of a tzaddik is righteousness; the mahut of the wicked man is evil. What is the mahut - the essential nature - of the Beinoni?]

He is certainly not one whose deeds are half virtuous and half sinful; for if this were so, how could Rabbah err in [classifying] himself as a Beinoni? - when it is known that his mouth never ceased studying [the Torah], so much so that even the Angel of Death had no dominion over him. [13]

[Such was Rabbah's diligence that he did not neglect his studies for even one moment. Qualitatively too, his learning was on so high a plane that the Angel of Death was unable to overpower him.]

How, then, could he err in considering that half his deeds were sinful, G-d forbid? Furthermore, [when can a person be considered a Beinoni?] For at the time one sins until he repents he is deemed completely wicked, (and if he [was sinful and] then repented, [thus ceasing to be wicked], he is deemed completely righteous [14].)

Even he who violates a minor prohibition of the Rabbis is termed wicked, as is stated in Yevamot, ch. 2, [15] and in Niddah, ch. 1. [16]. Moreover, even he who himself does not sin, but has the opportunity to forewarn another against sinning and fails to do so is termed wicked [Shevuot, ch. 6 [17]].

All the more so he who neglects any positive law which he is able to fulfill, for instance, whoever is able to study Torah and does not do so, to whom our Sages [18] have applied the verse, [19] "Because he has despised the word of the L-rd [i.e., the Torah],....[that soul] shall be utterly cut off...."

It is thus plain that such a person is called wicked, more so than he who violates a prohibition of the Sages.

This being so, we must conclude that the Beinoni is not guilty even of the sin of neglecting to study Torah; [a sin most difficult to avoid, and counted among those sins that people transgress daily.[20].

This is why Rabbah mistook himself for a Beinoni.*

[Since a Beinoni is innocent even of neglecting Torah study, Rabbah could [mistakenly] consider himself a Beinoni, even though he scrupulously observed even the most minor commandments and never ceased from his studies.]


As for what is written in the Zohar III, p. 231: "He whose sins are few [is classed as a `righteous man who suffers']," [implying that even according to the Zohar the meaning of a "righteous man who suffers" is one who does have sins, albeit few; and if so, a Beinoni must be one who is in part virtuous and in part sinful], this is the query of Rav Hamnuna to Elijah.

But according to Elijah's answer [ibid.], the meaning of a "righteous man who suffers" is as stated in Ra`aya Mehemna on Parshat Mishpatim, quoted above, [5] i.e., that the "righteous man who suffers" is one whose evil nature is subservient to his good nature.]

And the Torah has seventy facets [modes of interpretation] [21].

[The Rebbe Shlita notes that the words, "And the Torah has seventy facets," help us understand Rav Hamnuna's query.

It is difficult to understand how Rav Hamnuna would even entertain the notion that a "righteous man who suffers" is one who actually sins, inasmuch as all the abovementioned questions clearly lead us to assume the opposite.

Rav Hamnuna's query, however, was prompted only by the fact that "the Torah has seventy facets," and he thought that this was possibly one of these facets.




  1. (Back to text) Niddah 30b.

  2. (Back to text) Avot 2:13.

  3. (Back to text) The apparent contradiction between the two statements is resolved in ch. 13. See also chs. 14, 29 and 34.

  4. (Back to text) Berachot 7a.

  5. (Back to text) Zohar II, 117b.

  6. (Back to text) This is an alternative interpretation of the words "vera lo" which may be rendered literally as "evil [belongs] to him"; i.e, he is master of the evil nature in him.

  7. (Back to text) 61b.

  8. (Back to text) See beginning of ch. 9, and ch. 13.

  9. (Back to text) Berachot 18b.

  10. (Back to text) Bava Batra 16a.

  11. (Back to text) Niddah 16b.

  12. (Back to text) The question is answered in ch. 14 and ch. 27.

  13. (Back to text) See Bava Metzia 86a.

  14. (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes that although the Gemara in Kiddushin 49b indicates only that the penitent sinner is considered a tzaddik, it is explicitly stated in Or Zarua, sec. 112, that he is considered a tzaddik gamur.

  15. (Back to text) 20a.

  16. (Back to text) 12a.

  17. (Back to text) 39b.

  18. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 99a.

  19. (Back to text) Bamidbar 15:31.

  20. (Back to text) See below, end of ch. 25.

  21. (Back to text) Otiot deRabbi Akiva; comp. Bamidbar Rabbah 14:12.

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