Definitions

Tanya

Tanya

[tan-yuh, tahn-]
Note: Tanya Rabbati, a 16th century Italian code of Jewish law, is an unrelated work with a similar name. For other uses, see Tanya (disambiguation).
Tanya (תניא, Aramaic for "it was taught") is a book more commonly known by its opening word although titled Likkutei Amarim (ליקוטי אמרים, Hebrew, "collection of statements"), an early work of Hasidic Judaism, written by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, in 1797 CE.

Subject matter

The Tanya deals with Jewish spirituality and psychology from the point of view of Hasidic philosophy and Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). Most of the work's first part, "The Book of the Average Man", the beinoni, serves as a fundamental and basic guide to the spiritual service of God.

Unlike other early Hasidic works, this book is not a collection of sermons or stories, but rather a systematic exposition of Shneur Zalman's philosophy. Lubavitcher Hasidim are enjoined to study from this work each day as part of Chitas - an acronym for Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya. The Rebbes of Chabad taught that it is a sacred duty to publish and distribute this book as widely as possible.

The Tanya seeks to demonstrate to the "average" Jewish man or woman that knowledge of God is there for the taking, that spiritual growth to ever higher levels is real and imminent, if one is willing to engage in the struggle. Although many view the Tanya as a work of explanation on Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism, its approbations make clear that Tanya is first and foremost a book of advice in the practical service of God.

Levels of divine service

The Tanya describes five levels:

  • The complete tzaddik ("righteous person") has transformed his animal soul completely, to the point that it is able to reach intense Godly delight in its connection to Godliness, and is disgusted by all worldly pleasures.
  • The incomplete tzaddik no longer desires evil in a way that will be externally expressed, even on the level of thought; however, a minute amount of desire for very subtle evil remains.
  • The beinoni (lit. "intermediate one") possesses an animal soul that still desires evil, but he succeeds at constantly restraining himself from sin in action, speech, and even thought; this, however, requires ongoing tension and struggle. This struggle is not simply the confrontation between good and evil, but rather the ongoing encounter between one's two souls - the animal and the divine - the soul that draws downward toward the earth, and the soul that aspires upward toward Hashem.
  • The incomplete rasha ("evil person") has committed sin without doing teshuva, but does good deeds as well.
  • The total rasha has sinned so frequently that none of his thought, speech, or action are controlled by the divine soul (though it remains within him), and he is exclusively controlled by his animal soul.

Structure

Shneur Zalman published his Likkutei Amarim anonymously in 1797. Later editions incorporated additional writings by Shneur Zalman. The latest version of this work, dating from 1814, consists of five parts:

  1. Sefer shel Beinonim ("The Book of the Average Men"). This book describes how contemplating the greatness of the Creator and the union that a Jew has with Him through the Torah's commandments a Jew can achieve the love and fear of God necessary for sincere worship. This approach is the fundamental theme of Chabad teaching: to achieve emotional refinement during prayer (including everyday following of commandments); however, this emotion must stem from intellectual understanding of the mystical and spiritual aspects of the service. That is why this approach and the movement are called Chabad, after the three intellectual Sephirot, God's intellectual forces of creation: Chochmah (Wisdom), Binah (Knowledge), Da'at (Understanding).
  2. Sha'ar ha-Yichud ve'ha'Emunah ("The Gateway of Unity and Belief") This book describes how although the creation is different from the Creator, they are united. Furthermore, it talks about how although on the surface it seems that the Creator uses multiple forces to create the world, in their origin within the Creator, these forces come from the same source.
  3. Iggeret HaTeshuvah ("Letter of Repentance".) This section is also known as the "Tanya Katan" ("Brief Tanya".) It describes the mystical aspect of repentance that not only leads to forgiveness for the sins but can actually move the repenting person to a spiritual place that is higher than where he was before sinning.
  4. Iggeret HaKodesh ("Letter of Holiness".) This section was not published until 1814, after Shneur Zalman's death. It is a collection of letters which the author wrote to his disciples and different Chassidic communities, in which he talked about mystical aspects of certain commandments (such as charity, Torah study, or in general, all commandments concerned with a physical deed). Today it is used as a source of certain in-depth concepts of the Written Chassidism not concerned specifically with emotion felt during service or repentance. It is a more profound and more focused work of mysticism than the previous sections.
  5. Kuntres Acharon ("Last Thesis".) This section was not published until 1814, after Shneur Zalman's passing. It is also a series of letters in which the author resolved certain seeming controversies in Kabbalah. This section is an even more in-depth revelation of profound mystical notions than the previous one.

In general, although the first book is more concerned with avodah (emotional divine service), while the later ones are increasingly concerned with more complicated and in-depth mystical concepts, the author unites abstract Kabbalistic ideas with the importance of everyday service and an emotion that must accompany it.

Exposition

The Tanya is said to be the Written Torah of Hasidic philosophy, for it is the first work of Hasidic philosophy recorded by its own author, in contrast to the works of the Ba'al Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch, whose words were transcribed by their disciples. This implies that the teachings of Hasidic philosophy in general are all an exposition of the Tanya, just as the Torah teaches that the entire purpose of the Oral Torah is to elucidate the Written Torah.

In his preface to the Tanya, the author writes that anyone with questions about the meaning or application of the Tanya's guidance should approach "the great ones in his city." In Chabad Hasidic parlance such a guide is known as a Mashpia. Such a person is trained by his predecessors in correct application of the Tanya.

Many works have been written explaining the Tanya, in particular: the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Reshimos on the Tanya, HaLekach VehaLibuv, Shiu'rim BeSefer HaTanya (in its English translation, known as "Lessons in Tanya), Maskil Le'Eisan, Biurei Ha'Tanya, and "Opening The Tanya," "Learning the Tanya," and "Understanding the Tanya" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Aphorisms concerning the Tanya

"Our understanding in Tanya is like a goat looking at the moon"--Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn.

See also

Cited references

References

  • HaRav Shneor Zalman of Liadi, Tanya: Likutei Amarim: Sefer Shel Benonim (It was taught, Collected Sayings: Book of Intermediates) with added notes explaining the Mystical concepts by Rabbi Nissan Mindel PH.D.& Rabbi Ya'acov Immanuel Schochet, Bi-Lingual Hebrew-English edition, Kehot Publishing.com

External links

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