Sefer Tanya

All Tanya all the time, without Chabad: the sefer itself from an outsider's perspective. I'll be calling this work “Nearly Everybody”: The Inner Life and Struggles of the Jewish Soul

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Ch. 3

“Nearly Everybody”: The Inner Life and Struggles of the Jewish Soul

(Based on “Tanya: Collected Discourses of R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi”)

by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 3


But there’s a lot more we’d need to learn about our G-dly spirit than the glorious but abstract fact that it's a veritable part of G-d if we’re ever going to apply it to spiritual growth as we’re expected to. So let’s see how RSZ lays out its make-up.

To now he'd been mostly philosophical, but RSZ will now draw upon his Kabbalistic background. As such, when he starts out to depict our G-dly spirit he harkens back to the three aspects of our soul he’d cited before: our nephesh, ruach, and neshama (see 2:4). And he makes the point that that soul is comprised of ten components in all: a cluster of three “mind” elements, and another cluster of seven “heart” elements, which correspond to, align themselves up with, and derive from the ten primordial sephirot [1, 2].

Now, we can’t help but notice that he hadn’t touched on any of that when he discussed our animalistic spirit. He didn’t refer back to the soul en toto with its nephesh, ruach, or neshama aspects, and he also didn’t break it down to its component parts. All he did was point out that it’s rooted in un-G-dliness. This will prove to be significant. But let’s first see what he says about the G-dly spirit’s mind and heart elements.

We’ll try not to get too technical here, so suffice it to say that the G-dly spirit's three mind elements encompass its capacities for “wisdom”, “understanding”, and “knowledge” [3]; and its seven heart elements are its capacities to “give”, “withhold”, “(experience or produce a sense of) beauty”, “endure”, “glory”, “(experience or produce a sense of) foundation”, and to “rule” [4]. And we learn that the mind and heart elements interact with each other in particular ways which we’ll touch on later.

We’ll delve into each of these elements now, then go back to our point about what sets this spirit apart from our animalistic one.


Let’s begin by detailing the G-dly spirit’s mind elements, which is to say, its thinking process [5]. It’s important to know at this point that the mind elements will prove to be the source of and impetus behind the G-dly spirit’s heart elements. Know, however, that this depiction will be rather abstruse, but we’ll continue to do our best to draw all such ideas into our experience.

As we said above, the G-dly spirit’s mind starts off in its capacity for “wisdom”. But don’t misunderstand the term. “Wisdom” in this instance hasn’t anything to do with any knowledge we might have acquired which we’d then apply careful, experience-borne consideration to, as we might expect. It's a supernal phenomenon far beyond that. So in order not to confuse ourselves we’ll use the Hebrew term for it, Chochma, instead [6].

Chochma is the G-dly spirit’s experience of a spontaneous awareness of an abstract, unformed, amorphous notion somewhere in the mind’s background. We’d refer to it as “intuition” and would liken it to the first flash of insight the mind experiences when it hits upon an idea: the sort of loud and vivid albeit ethereal “Ah Ha!” we all know of.

It’s next mind-element, “understanding”, isn’t simply the G-dly spirit’s storehouse of any data, information, or perceptions it might have managed to stow away, as we might think. So we’ll use its Hebrew term in this instance too, Binah.

Binah entails the G-dly spirit's ability to step back and “observe” the aforementioned intuitive flash as a whole; break it down into its component parts; categorize those parts; and to delve into the matter in depth.

Its third element, Da’at (“Knowledge”), involves the G-dly spirit’s ability to take hold of all that, if you will; to subtly co-mingle itself with it all in a most intimate way, and to ultimately assimilate and incorporate all that into its being till it all becomes a veritable part of the G-dly spirit itself [7].

In fact, it’s the quality of Da’at that engenders and connects with all the G-dly spirit’s feelings, as we’ll see.


Now, the G-dly spirit’s “heart elements” are chiefly comprised of Chesed (“giving”) and Gevurah (“withholding”). The other elements cited are said to be offshoots of these, their roots, so we won’t delve into them [8].

Chesed is tied in to the G-dly spirit’s ability to love G-d, while Gevurah refers to its ability to fear Him [9]. The G-dly spirit comes upon those two emotions thusly.

When its “mind” dwells upon G-d’s presence infusing and enveloping everything [10] and on the fact that everything else is of no consequence in the face of that [11], it comes to be agog and abashed in His great and lofty presence (see ch. 43); to be awestruck, startled, and frightened by His Being.

It then starts to fall deeply and intensely in love with G-d as a consequence of that, and to yearn, burn with “a most vehement flame” (Song of Songs 8:6) for Him with a “longing soul” (Psalms 107:9), and to want only to cling onto the Infinite. That’s to say that the G-dly spirit comes to pine away for G-d deeply and passionately, and to “ache to be in and to become undone in G-d’s courtyard” to “cry out to the living G-d“ (Psalms 84:3), to “thirst for ... the living G-d”, and to wonder when it will “ever appear before G-d“ (Psalms 42:3)

That’s quite an astounding and sublime reaction to G-d, needless to say. And it could be said to be the ultimate human longing.

In any event, the combination of these two core traits then foster the other traits by means of the Da’at, as we indicated. For the Da’at enables the G-dly spirit’s “mind” to mull over all we’d represented to the point where the G-dly spirit truly knows for certain of G-d’s reality within. That Da’at level of assurity then has G-dly spirit’s “heart” sense G-d’s reality too and respond to it. RSZ underscores the fact that Da’at is in fact the root of the G-dly spirit’s emotions of love and fear of G-d.

As we’ll see in the course of this work, that sure and fixed combination of mind and heart responding to G-d’s Being is a vitally important aspect of our G-dly spirit.

But know for a certainty that the G-dly soul’s “mind” would have to truly fix itself firmly, consistently (Likutei Biurim), and exclusively upon G-d’s infinite greatness to achieve such levels of fear and love. Otherwise it would have only imagined itself truly loving and fearing Him -- which will prove to be no avail when it comes to changing ourselves (Tanya Mevuar).


Let’s go back now to the fact that RSZ hadn’t touched on any of the intricacies of our animalistic spirit when he introduced it. But in fact, he’ll do just that as well as compare and contrast the two spirits at some length in Ch. 6, below.

We contend first off that RSZ delved into on our animalistic spirit first (albeit minimally) because it manifests itself first in our being, at birth, while the G-dly Spirit doesn’t manifest itself until we’re halachically adult and culpable for our own deeds, at Bar and Bat Mitzvah age (Maskil L’Eitan, vol. 1, pp. 89-90).

But it seems that he granted us greater insight into the G-dly Spirit from the start for two other reasons: first, because he finds its effulgent light and promise far more stunning, lustrous, and exhilarating than anything the animalistic soul could ever hope to experience, as his depictions of it seem to indicate; and second because, as we’ll see, he contends that the animalistic spirit is ancillary to the G-dly Spirit at bottom, since we’re called upon to have the G-dly Spirit overtake it (Maskil L’Eitan, vol. 1, p. 90), and because the G-dly Spirit descended to this world in the first place to purify it (ibid., p. 104).

Let it also be said that another, significant difference between the two is that while the G-dly spirit yearns for G-d, the animalistic spirit yearns for everything but Him.

That having been said, the point to be made though is that we ourselves either access the G-dly spirit’s elements and thus avail ourselves of our natural bias toward G-dliness, or we access our natural bias toward rank animality. The choice is ours. For as we’ll see, both systems work alike-- though they draw from and our nourished by utterly opposite roots.

It would of course do us best to access our G-dly bias and tend toward G-dliness each and every moment, but we often don’t. And the competition between the two spirits is relentless and fierce.

Nonetheless even when we do access our G-dly bias at every turn we may still be less than righteous (though not wrongful, per se); and might yet be existentially “somewhere in between”, as we’ll see.


[1] See 2:3 above which refers to “the hidden depths of our being known Kabbalistically as our ‘nephesh’, ‘ruach’ and ‘neshama’...“, and note 5 there as well.

The truth be known, though, the soul is indivisible. It just *manifests* itself in various ways (Shiurim b’Sefer HaTanya), much the way the One indivisible G-d manifests Himself variously in this world.

[2] RSZ’s audience and readership obviously had a strong working knowledge of the Kabbalistic details touched on here, since he never fully explains them per se. In fact, though, RSZ really doesn’t touch upon many of the lesser-known, more complex, even revolutionary Kabbalistic themes that the Ari and his adherents expanded upon at great length but only upon certain more widely-known and discussed ones, though that’s certainly not meant to besmirch his obvious expertise in Kabbalah.

Be that as it may, the Sephirot cited here are depicted as “endless and limitless” emanations of G-d’s Light which itself “radiates and is engarbed in them” (Iggeret Hakodesh 15), and they act as intermediaries between G-d and this world. They’re termed Chochma, Binah, Da’at, Chesed, Gevurah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut.

[3] I.e., Chochma, Binah, and Da’at.

[4] I.e., Chesed, Gevurah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut.

[5] Understand that we’re discussing our G-dly spirit's thinking process here in contrast to our animalistic spirit’s. Our *own* thinking process -- our ability to choose between the thoughts of one spirit over another -- joggles between the two at any given moment, depending on our predilection. But we’ll delve into that later on.

[6] The word Chochma is often broken down to read *koach ma* or the “power” to perceive “the inchoate”.

[7] RSZ cites the verse “And Adam ‘knew’ Eve (conjugally)” (Genesis 4:1) as an indication of the kind of co-mingling being alluded to here (though the instance of it here in the text is a decidedly nonphysical one, of course).

[8] The heart’s seven qualities are actually laid out as two clusters of three qualities each (Cluster 1 being comprised of “giving”, “withholding”, and “beauty”; and Cluster 2 including “endurance”, “glory”, and “foundation”), along with a single quality (“rule”) that serves as the sum and substance, as well as a repository, of the other six.

It’s also pointed out that the clusters themselves are each comprised of two opposite though complimentary qualities (thesis and antithesis) with a third one that evenly blends and harmonizes the two (synthesis). As such, “giving” and “withholding” are harmonized by “beauty” (i.e., which is rooted in balance); and “endurance” and “glory” are harmonized by “foundation” (i.e., which is rooted in permanence).

[9] The vitally prominent notions of the love and fear of G-d will be discussed in detail in ch’s 9, 19, and 41-42 below. Suffice it to say for now that we ourselves experience fear (or “awe” as it’s also understood) followed by love when we’re thunderstruck by someone who’s more exalted than we whom we then want to draw close to (see Likut Perushim, Maareh Mekomot, p. 112).

[10] These often reiterated notions of "infusing" and "envloping" are portrayed as G-d “filling (and...) encompassing all worlds” (Zohar 3:225a) respectively. The former is usually taken to refer to G-d’s immanence and the latter to His transcendence. Both together refer to His All-Presence. See next note.

[11] The implication of this is that at bottom G-d is *everywhere*. There's also the notion that by extension, the point at which "inside" touches "outside" and "outside" touches "inside" comes to be so minute that the notions of inside and outside become irrelevant, and “everything comes to be considered naught in His presence” (Zohar 1:11b) and of no consequence-- null and void, for all intents and purposes (see Sha'ar HaYichud v’He’emunah, ch. 7).

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Ch. 2

“Nearly Everybody”: The Inner Life and Struggles of the Jewish Soul

(Based on “Tanya: Collected Discourses of R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi”)

by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 2


Let's concentrate now on our "G-dly spirit", or bias toward pure G-dliness.

What would ever draw us in that direction in the first place, given how unworldly, almost unnatural such a bias would seem to be? For few among us truly strive so high (and fewer yet achieve it) -- though some certainly do yearn for it. After all, there have always been those who want nothing better than to draw close to G-d, who nonetheless manage to get waylaid by the exigencies of life. (In fact, they're the very people who'd benefit most from this work.)

Nevertheless, most of us believe that other than some rare people we’d read about in the far-off past, nothing is further from most people’s experience than a bias toward G-dliness and away from the sort of very earthly delights we long for.

Yet still and all we're taught that each and every Jew has such a G-dly spirit, know it or not. And that it's that which enables us to achieve piety.

It's just that for most, the G-dly spirit is an exceptionally subtle and un-sensed element of our being. In fact, most would be as surprised to learn we have one as to discover that we can control our own heart-rate. But let it be said outright that our G-dly spirit is very real -- though often hoarse or tightlipped.

We're also taught that it's a veritable part of G-d Above (see Job 31:2) [1] -- a pure and simple spark of G-dliness that lies dormant and in virtual captivity within (see Iggeret Hakodesh Ch. 4).

But that itself is astounding. For how could a part of us be a part of G-d? Doesn't it seem misty-eyed if not downright irreverent to think as much? We'll find, though, that our G-dly spirit is very real, and that it's as much a part of G-d as His own "breath" and "mind", so to speak, as we’ll soon see.

In any event, we’re ensured that we’re each gifted with an innate yearning to draw close to -- indeed, return to -- G-d, our Source and Core-Center, know it or not.


Let’s first explore the connection RSZ makes between our G-dly spirit and G-d’s “breath”, go from there to learning how he links it to G-d’s “mind”, then continue to explicate some of the implications of this G-dly spirit.

Understand that this will get rather esoteric at times (as will a lot of what we’ll be discussing in this work, by necessity). But suffice it to say that we’ll do our best to depict the sorts of things that one could only truly understand after spending years palpating subtle intangibles and dabbling at the roped-off edges of the Divine as RSZ had to have done in order to offer the following. In any event, let’s see how our G-dly spirit is connected to G-d’s breath by delving into the way G-d created the world at large as opposed to how He created us.

We’re taught that G-d Almighty created the world by enunciating what He wanted there to be there. He said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), “let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters“ (v. 6), “let the waters under the heavens be gathered together“ (v. 9), “let the earth bring forth grass, herb-yielding seed, and fruit trees“ (v. 11), “let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens“ (v. 14), “let the waters be filled with many kinds of living creatures, and let there be birds to fly above the earth“ (v. 20), and “let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures, cattle, creeping things, and beasts“ (v. 24). And all those things came about, as if following orders. Then G-d declared that He wanted to create man, which He did (see v. 26). But He did that fundamentally otherwise, and in two stages.

He “formed” him rather than ordered him to come about, which is to say that He fashioned his body and everything associated with it “out of the dust of the ground” with His own “hands”. Then He imbued him with a soul by “breath(ing) out... into his nostrils“ (Genesis 2:7; see Iggeret Hakodesh Ch. 4).

Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, doesn’t it go without saying that G-d doesn’t speak, doesn’t have hands, and doesn’t breathe? So what’s being suggested in fact? And what does that have to do with our soul being connected to G-d’s Being?

It comes to this. While the world and all its accouterments is a product of a relatively outlying element of G-d’s Being (which is thus likened to a mere “utterance” on His part), and man and his accouterments -- including our “animalistic spirit” by the way -- is a product of a more intrinsic element of G-d’s Being (which is thus likened to the work of His own “hands”), man’s soul -- our G-dly spirit -- is a direct expression of G-d’s Being (which is thus likened to His very “breath”, since nothing is closer to one's person than his breath [2]).


Now let’s see the reported connection between our G-dly spirit and G-d’s “mind”.

We’d explain it by offering the fact that we're termed G-d’s "children" -- His first-born, in fact -- in the Torah. “You are the children of G-d your L-rd“ (Deuteronomy 14:1) it’s said; “Israel is ... My firstborn“ (Exodus 4:22), we assured.

And that helps explain our connection to His "mind"; for we’re only termed G-d's “firstborn” because our G-dly spirit was the first thing His mind “conceived of” (pun intended); and we’re only dubbed His “children” because we continue to be on His mind (i.e., continue to be monitored by Him, if you will), much the way children’s actions are always on their parents’ minds.

As an aside, though, let’s not be foolish enough to imagine that we can truly understand anything about G-d’s mind. The truth be known, everything we say about G-d is a metaphor and figure of speech, to say nothing of His mind (despite our being straight-out linked to it). Since it’s utterly, utterly out of our experience and beyond our ken. As it’s said, “Could you ever delve into G-d? Could you ever determine the Almighty’s aim?“ (Job 11:7), “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says G-d“ (Isaiah 55:8). (Part of the reason why we can’t understand G-d’s mind, by the way, is because in a very real, albeit inscrutable way, G-d’s mind and thoughts are “at one” with His Being [3], which we could never hope to fathom.)

Be that as it may, by virtue of the fact that we were the very first thing G-d conceived of in His plans to create the world, and given that His Being and His thoughts are one, it again follows that we’re assuredly linked to G-d’s “mind” and Self in a very real way.

And the rest of us -- the animalistic spirit spoken of in the last chapter, as well as our rank physicality -- was produced out of the “dust of the earth” in a backhanded, almost lackadaisical, extrinsic sort of way (see Genesis 1:26).

At bottom, though, let's realize that each Jew in fact has a G-dly spirit that is an element of G-d’s Being, which allows us all to strive for true righteousness and perfection despite the sort of rank humanity we all experience (see Biur Tanya). And let's also allow ourselves to be galvanized to the core by that fact (see Maskil L’itan) [4].


RSZ then discusses a couple of issues that aren’t directly germane to our G-dly spirit but which address a larger, perhaps even the largest issue of Tanya: Who we are at bottom and what’s expected of each one of us personally as a consequence.

The first point is this. We do indeed each have a G-dly spirit that derives from the same Source, but we're each clearly different. How can that be, and what insight does that offer us about ourselves?

RSZ’s response is that our common “heritage” doesn’t deny the fact that we’re different (much the way siblings can be quite different from each other). There’s also no denying the fact that we’re different than our ancestors as well, and are in a certain sense “different” from our very selves, given how complex, sometimes self-contradictory, and always highly variable we are despite our having come from the One Source.

For who among us wouldn’t be stunned to truly realize that he or she is a direct descendant of the great and holy Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or that we’re indeed related to Moses himself? After all, they were far, far loftier than we; ever so very much closer to G-d than we could ever imagine being! And yet we and they aren’t only related by blood, we’re also related on a soul level, if you will. Because we and they alike had and have G-dly spirits that are tied to G-d’s essential Being.

(But we needn’t try to fathom how we could be related on any level to ancestors such as they. Frankly, how could most of us claim to be of the same stock as some of the more exalted souls with whom we share this era who lived selfless lives of deep reflection, scholarship, and concentrated prayer who dedicated their lives to the well-being of each and every Jew of his time and to come as they have? Certainly not.)

There's another point to consider, too. Seeing, as we said before, that each one of us is comprised of a multitude of diverse “selves” moment to moment, day after day (righteous enough one minute, cruel the next; gracious, then insensitive; giddy, then morose, and on and on ...), to say nothing of the hidden depths of our being known classically as our nephesh, ruach, and neshama which most of us know nothing of (see Likutei Biurim) -- could anyone imagine that we still-and-all have a single and unadulterated G-dly spirit [5]? (We’ll delve into our nephesh, ruach, and neshama in the next chapter, by the way.)

But we're assured that we do. We ourselves, as well as the holy ones (and very unholy ones, too!) who preceded us and live in our midst, all have a G-dly spirit. Each and every Jew, without exception.

What does differentiate us from each other, though, aside from personal quirks and characteristics, is the function we each serve in the “body” of the greater Jewish Nation. For the greatest of us serve as the heads of either their generation or of the nation at large, while others of us serve lower positions, including as mere “heels”.


Now, as to how such seemingly dispensable, "heel"-like individuals can derive from so lofty a source as G-d’s “mind” and Being, that goes back to the analogy we drew before of our being “conceived” of by G-d.

For just as the birthing process starts off with the idea someone has to have a child and results in the birth of a full-bodied baby with head, torso, organs, and the like, all the way down to its heels and toe-nails, each and every Jew -- from relative “head” to “heel” -- is a product of G-d having purposefully set out to “conceive” of us in His mind as we are, and of our eventually coming about.

And as to how such individuals maintain a connection to G-d throughout their lives despite the way they turned out, that’s analogous to the way each and every child is connected to his parents -- at least on a genetic or legal level -- throughout his life, and regardless of the sort of person he might have turned out to be [6]. For indeed, every child is fundamentally and inexorably linked to his parents before being born, while in his mother’s womb, and from then onward. And we're each inexorably linked to G-d much the same way.

We’re also taught that these “lower” members of the nation can draw spiritual nourishment and vitality from more accessible sources as well. After all, despite the Divinity and majesty of their Source, they’d still seem to need help expressing their bias toward G-dliness.

As we’re taught, they derive that spiritual nourishment and vitality by associating and aligning themselves with the “heads”, the righteous ones of either their own generation or of previous ones [7,8] -- much the way we might indirectly strengthen our bonds to our parents by aligning ourselves with older siblings if we weren’t close to our parents. For regardless of whether our association with G-d is either direct or roundabout, it nonetheless takes hold.

For the truly righteous are more openly and conspicuously aligned with G-d Almighty Himself, since they more fully and passionately delve into and live out His Torah, which is intimately joined with His “mind”. Hence, fusing with those individuals’ bolder and richer connection to G-d enables even the lowest of us to associate with Him, too.

At bottom, then, the idea is that we do all indeed have a G-dly spirit, despite ourselves, which we can always employ; and that we can also draw upon the G-dly spirits of the more exalted among us for succor.


Another side issue now arises: what role do we play in our children’s make-up, as parents, if everyone’s spiritual being is already implanted from birth? Aren’t we cautioned to have the purest of intentions when trying to conceive children, in order to provide them with pure souls (see Zohar 2, 204B and on; 3, pp. 80-820), which seems to underscore our importance in the process?

We’re taught, then, that what we contribute as parents are our child’s souls' “garbs” rather than their souls itself [9]. Which is to say that we provide the outer trappings, if you will -- the means the soul has to express and reveal itself, including its physical and spiritual qualities, talents, abilities, etc. (see Biur Tanya).

That’s not at all meant to demean the role we can play as parents. After all, everything a person does -- as well as everything he derives from G-d -- is filtered through the garb he inherited from his parents (Tanya Mevuar). Nonetheless, the soul unto itself is unaffected by one’s parents’ actions -- so much so that even an august and eminent soul can hail from humble, even base parents.

Take heart, though. For despite their implied permanency we’re each assured that we can always “change our garb” with enough effort (Likutei Biurim).

[1] As to it being a “part of G-d”, that’s not to suggest that G-d can be broken-down into parts, which is absurd. By definition, G-d is a perfect, utterly self-contained whole. Instead, the point (as offered in sect. 2 below) is that “while the world itself and all its accouterments is a product of a relatively outlying expression of G-d’s Being ..., man and his accouterments ... is a product of a more intrinsic expression of G-d’s Being ... while man’s soul -- our G-dly spirit -- is a direct expression of His Being” -- a virtual part of Him.

There’s another interesting point being made here. The Hebrew term for veritable here (as in “a veritable part of G-d Above”), mamash, can also be translated as “tangible” or “material” which is of course the very opposite of the transcendence implied by “Above”. But that’s meant to underscore the paradoxical nature of the G-dly spirit, which functions on a spiritual level ... in a material world (Likut Perushim 2:9).

Parenthetically, the G-dly spirit’s situation before entering a human body and its mission while here will be discussed in ch. 31 below.

[2] The notion that RSZ uses for this concept is the famous one that “One who exhales, exhales from his very being“, which he cites the Zohar as the source for. But as all of his commentators point out, no reference to that can be found in the Zohar. But in his edition of Ramban’s commentary to the Torah (Genesis 2:7) Rabbi C. D. Chavel acknowledges Rabbi Y. Leiner’s citation of the Sefer HaKanah as the actual source of this quote.

[3] RSZ includes a rather complex note here that delves into a seeming contradiction between statements by Maimonides and Rabbi Yehuda Loewe (Maharal of Prague).

Maimonides equated G-d Himself with His knowledge by saying that, “G-d is simultaneously the Knower, the Known, and His Knowledge“ (Yesodei HaTorah 2:10; Sh’mone Perakim ch. 8). It would help to see what Maimonides said elsewhere about this to understand this concept.

He said that “G-d doesn’t know with a knowledge that’s external to Him, as does man, whose knowledge is separate from his being. G-d and His knowledge are One“ (Hilchot Tshuvah 5:5). His point is that G-d can’t be said to “acquire” knowledge from outside of Himself. For that would mean that He lacked that bit of information beforehand and was thus “improved” by having come upon it. But that’s absurd, since G-d is by definition perfect, so He couldn’t possibly be improved. Maimonides reasoned that the only solution would be to say that G-d and what He knows are one and the same -- His knowledge is already part of His Being. And that, in fact, He’s the very subject of His own knowledge; since He contains everything, and everything is contained in Him; and ergo, what he knows is Himself.

Hence, again, “G-d is simultaneously the Knower, the Known, and His Knowledge”. Nonetheless, Maharal of Prague argues against this concept and wonders how anyone would dare say that G-d is mere “knowledge”.

RSZ’s point is that Kabbalists (including Rabbi Moshe Cordovera, but most especially the holy Ari) still-and-all agree with Maimonides’ statement. It’s just that Maharal and they are approaching the problem from different reference points.

For according to Ari we're to differentiate between G-d’s revelation of Himself in the “Ohr Ayn Sof” (i.e., an emanation of His Infinite Presence) and His revelation of Himself in the “Ayn Sof” (i.e., His Infinite Presence) itself.

It’s RSZ’s contention then that Maimonides is referring to “Ohr Ayn Sof” where G-d can indeed be said to be the “Known“, “Knower“, as well as “Knowledge“. And that he’s not at all referring to “Ayn Sof” itself, where it would be wrong to refer to G-d as being the “Known“, “Knower“, to say nothing of His “Knowledge“ (see Maskil L’itan).

[4] An obvious question at this point is, when did the Gentile nations stop having this connection to G-d? After all, it was Adam and hence mankind en toto who was granted “that part of G-d” at creation.

RSZ doesn’t seem to address that issue in his writings, but see Rabbi A. D. Goldberg’s commentary to Nephesh HaChaim, entitled Vedibarta Bam (at 1:4 note 3), who argues that the change occurred in the course of the Generation of the Dispersion (see Genesis 11:1-8). His point seems to be that the dispersion wasn’t a mere physical one alone but an existential one, too; for since those involved in the construction of the Great Tower had decided to take things into their own hands and to elude G-d, they were allowed to, to this very day, measure for dreadful measure.

[5] The astute reader will recall that we said in note 5 to Ch. 1 that not everybody has a neshama. But understand that each level of the soul is itself multifarious and comprised of varying degrees of the other levels. As such, the nephesh has elements of ruach and of neshama, and they have elements of it. The neshama we’re alluding to here, at this point, is the nephesh’s neshama element (just as the ruach spoken of is the nephesh’s ruach element). The kind of neshama we alluded to in the notecited which not everyone has, is the “over-neshama”, if you will -- the sort of more sublime neshama that would have an “under-” nephesh, ruach and neshama of its own.

[6] At this point in the text RSZ likens that to the process of the soul descending through the Supernal Worlds termed Atzilut, Beriah, and Asiyah while yet maintaining its integrity-of-self and its connection to the Higher Worlds and their Source. This descent of the soul will come up again in a way in Ch. 3.

[7] Contrary to popular opinion, the notion of drawing close to G-d by associating with the holy and righteous did not originate in Chassidic thought. See the 14th century’s Derashot HaRan #8 (which itself cites Ramban and the 12th century’s Yehudah HaLevy as its source) where the idea is set out.

[8] We arrived at the idea of forming a relationship to a righteous soul who’s no longer alive based on the Kabbalistic notion of ibbur -- of the spirit of a dead righteous person “occupying” a living person’s being in order to help rectify the latter (or itself). See Ari’s Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Hakdamah 2; and see references to the concept in chapters 14 and 16 below.

[9] It’s unclear from the context just what the “garb” is. Likutei Biurim indicates that RSZ’s grandson, termed “The Tzemach Tzeddik”, thought it possible to equate the garb with the rational spirit (though Tanya Mevuar unjustifiably says that Tzemach Tzeddik does in fact equate the two).

But that definition doesn’t seem to fit in context, and doesn’t appear to follow other statements RSZ himself made. After all, RSZ uses the term “garb” to refer to Adam’s body at one point in our text (which we omitted because of the sort of highly esoteric nature of the citation, which we try to avoid in this adaptation); in Torah Ohr (Parshat VaYeira) he likewise refers to the body as the “garb” of the nephesh; and he uses the term in yet other contexts in chapters 4-6 below as we'll see. The definition we’re about to offer above in conjectural.

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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