“The English Tanya” is a paraphrased translation.
In other words, the ideas are in the sequence they are presented in – in the Tanya – and rewritten into an idiom that modern man finds more compelling.
As the goal of a translation is to make an inaccessible wisdom accessible, it is hoped that this paraphrased translation – coupled with paragraph headings that help break up the monotony of a long chapter – will help more and more people drink from the book of which Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev reportedly exclaimed upon receiving it, “Amazing, how such a big G-d, can be contained in such a small book.”
The author of Tanya writes that The Tanya is based on the verse “It is very easy to be a Jew.”
The author contends that everything we think, say or do (so that’s your entire conscious (and partially subconscious self) is motivated either by a desire for (called love) or a desire from (called fear – attraction/retraction.)
Furthermore, we are born actually with two conflicting souls:
The first soul is what is called “the soul of life,” or “the animal soul” – it contains four fundamental drives based on earth, air, fire, water (namely laziness / melancholy – fun / frivolity – boasting and anger – pleasure) as well as in good people containing innate compassionate feelings; (though fundamentally, everything to this animal (perspective) is, “How does it make me feel?…” – so the action is motivated by the instincts/feelings.)
In contrast, we also literally have G-d within us – a spark of G-d’s soul – which fundamentally is altruistic, selfless, and somewhat feels like a prince banished to a distant and dark cellar.
Our goal then is to fan the fire of the Divine soul – to nurture her inherent Divine longing.
There are two main mechanisms:
The first is when we can contemplate (“Jewish meditation” -namely contemplation, that leads to an inspiration) how this entire universe is not even like a single speck compared to G-d’s infinity (for as we know the finite comes from the infinite! Amazingly, science has proved this (atoms continually are reborn – and the mathematical equation is they come from an infinite (potential) into a finite state) and when we realize that even the infinite is not even like a speck! compared to the truly Unlimited Creator! we reawaken our soul’s latent love, and hence also the desire to not be far (the corollary of love.)
As such, (for all Jewish practices – as Tanya emphasize – are, a Rotzu / yearning and shuv / returning, symbiotic dance…) we realize that the mechanism through which our soul’s thirst for G-d can be quenched, is through obeying His will – by doing as much as possible, Torah study, and Mitzvah performance, and not transgressing any of His prohibitions (say trief, meanness, and the like.)
To a person who finds it difficult to arouse an inspiration (from meditation/contemplation) another amazing mechanism is suggested – in this mechanism – as the soul’s natural desire is for G-d, and as we found through Jewish history, millions of Jews (unfortunately) willing gave their lives (for example, in the times of the evil crusaders who pillaged their way through Europe to the Holy-Land, and seeking to rid themselves of Jews, massacred entire communities who were giving the choice to “kiss the cross or the sword” – and as in recent times, even wholly secular Jews, found that when “push came to shove,” their desire to remain attached to their Father-in-Heaven overpowered all other desires – as such, if we can recall that within us is such a powerful love for our Creator, then through the following two “reminders” (meditations…) we can always do good, and never sin:
- “If I am willing to give my life not to be separated from my G-d, how much more so can I sacrifice say time for Torah study or charity etc.”
- Conversely “if I am willing to give my life for my Creator, can I not withstand the temptation of a non–kosher piece of meat etc.”
Finally (though there are many! amazing) points:
- The author teaches us the importance of being free from worry (which he says robs one of joy, and the ability to beat the Yetzer Hara, “the evil side.”)
We free ourselves from worry by a. believing all is for a better purpose! b. As well as by not seeking perfectionism! and c. Recognizing that the Yetzer Hara will do all in its power to make us feel guilty : ( – though we Jews (such as on Yom Yippur) have times to repent, we never have time to feel guilty.
(Guilt takes us down, while repentance uplifts – the former is a cause of sadness, the latter of reinvigorated resolve! – This is quite important – as difficult as it may seem, we are not meant to wallow, but rejoice!, in our incredible fortune to be chosen to serve as Divine light.)
- Additionally a powerful dichotomy between – admiring your soul, and more particularly the joy it brings its Creator whenever you perform a Mitzvah, and conversely abhorring the negative in one’s body (namely the vile tendencies of the animal soul – hence identifying effectively with your good, while disidentifying with your bad) is an important tool.
3. This leads to an easy way to have selfless love – for all people contain Holy-Souls – so if we identify exclusively with our soul (instead of materialism and looks) we can cherish everyone – which is the most important Mitzvah.