The Ten Premises
To understand the Tanya 10 premises are needed
It is actually super difficult to know a language without knowing the “nouns.”
When we will describe the nouns (“people, places, things”) of the Tanya, the rest can – as language itself as Dr. Wennik (whose work with language led to “Rosetta Stone”) told me “after we know the nouns, the brain fills in the verbs.” (“Filler words…” so “Pass me, the sugar” the noun is sugar.)
1. Eloikus – Godliness
We are all quite familiar with God.
But what is Godliness??
To understand this we must understand how God creates.
In the beginning only God existed.
How do you get from a Being, who is actually beyond both infinite and finite (they are like the colors black and white in a painter’s brush) to a finite dimension?!
So in the beginning, God emanated an infinite light – Oir Ein Soif – a light with no end.
Then He created a Chalal, Umakoim Panoi – a dark hole – empty space… in this space, from the perspective of the observer, you cannot see God’s light.
Then He took from the infinite light, and made a Kav – a single infinite line / ray.
This Kav then descended into the containers of light, in the highest spiritual universe.
This universe is called Atzilus.
Atzilus has three intellectual and seven emotional containers.
They are Chochmah – point of conception.
Binah point of comprehension – understanding the conception.
Daas, Integration – transforming an idea to an emotion – this comes from really desiring this idea.
Then there is Chessed – the love to fulfil the idea.
Gevurah – the discipline – caution.
Tifferes – as Chessed and Gevurah blend.
Netzach – the desire to persevere to fulfil the idea.
Hoid – the sensitivity necessary to do the idea in a way that it will work.
Yesoid, the balance of netzah and hod.
And Malchus, the implementation and the mechanism.
Obviously this is a subject which thousands of Kabbalah and Chassidus Seforim – Holy books, discus (hence this is the slightest of overview…)
2. Dirah Bitachtoinim – God desires to dwell within us – this world.
This is a fundamental idea – this world is made up of Kelipa (more on that later.)
So just like say you desire a relationship with your children – similarly, God desires a relationship with you, His child, and with every other person, and in fact with everything He made!
This relationship is fulfilled when we fulfil His will (for this is the pleasure a person receives…) of-course Torah and Mitzvos, and extra effort in them, is this.
Additionally it is important to mention that when we actualize the study of Torah and Mitzvos, we then communicate (or receive) directly from God.
In other words there are three possibilities:
3. Kelipa – the other side
Although our universe is designed in the spiritual universe of Asiyah above, which is designed in the spiritual world of Yetzirah, which is designed in the spiritual world of Beriah, which is designed in the spiritual of Atzilus – nonetheless, there are Seventy Ministering Angels – these ministers are given domination / dominion over the seventy nations (respectively) as well as over their countries.
So all the energy – as we know, all matter = energy, comes via these seventy ministering angels (except for in Israel, “Where the eye of God your Lord is upon the land from the beggening to the end of the year.”) These angels effectively are selfish (they seek only the ego centric desires of these countries, however they are also highly intelligent, conniving and somewhat merciless – as we see say in the expansion of Rome, England etc.)
So if we allow our identity and passion to be say our country; we then place our “star” mazal (soul) under the ministering angels (who of-course just use us – and then when the sun has set… so has our identity, as all of human history proves.)
All of this is in order for Dirah Bitachtoinim – in other words, that we should instead choose to identify with our Neshamah (more on that later) Divine-soul, and dedicate our lives to God. In fact use the very countries we are in for Godly and Torah, Mitzvos / Goodness, Kindness, whereby we then convert (and the Rebbe said, “After thousands of years of so doing, this process, Birurim, has completed”) the selfish narcissistic energy, into a more selfless Divine space.
4. Shalosh Kelipos Hatemois
In addition there is a low energy, which is the source of all things prohibited by God, such as non-kosher animals etc.
If a person sins, then their Divine soul and God within it, has been “captured” into this space.
Only through a Teshuvah Mei-ahava – where regret from feeling far, creates a compulsion and desire to come close! can we remove our spirit, from the filth.
6. Gehinoim- Chibut Hakever – Kaf Hakela
Hopefully it happens not, but after a person dies their soul is judged.
This process is in order to cleanse it from the impurity and negative desires and stains of prohibited things.
Chibut Hakever is whereby the body is eaten by worms – a very unpleasant sight (this cleanses the soul of enjoyment of matters in this world, as it states, “the soul only ascends after it despises matters of this world.”)
Kaf Hakeleh is for wasting time – the soul is shown the preciousness of Torah and Mitzvos and is then shown the foolishness of chit-chat, entertainment etc.
Last but not least, there are two kinds of hell – the hell of fire which is used to excoriate passion for bad things, and the hell of snow which is used to cleanse “burn” the laziness. (As the measure of pain is based on the previous pleasure, therefore, the previous pleasure turns to pain, and the soul changes directions.)
6. Despising the Body and Loving the Soul
As we have two souls, an animal life giving soul, and a Divine spirit – the former is where our pleasure for things of this world, as well as pleasure in arrogance, laziness, fun, emanate from; as well as we contain a Divine spirit.
The Divine spirit is part of God, like a flame from an infinite fire! It first was born in the realm of Atzilus, so being in a body that seeks physical sensation, is like taking a prince who lives in the most sublime and wonderful spiritual palace and placing him in a dungeon, and he stands in excrement and must grind wheat : (
(In fact, the Alter Rebbe says, every night the soul pleads with God to be redeemed.)
Now depending on what we take pleasure in, the body’s pleasure, or the soul… – physical or spiritual… particularly the joy of God, and the soul, when the prince/princess is returned to her father through the unity of Torah and Mitzvos (for when we study Torah and do Mitzvos, the Divine energy in them comes and enwraps the soul) so then our focus, in life is positive.
7. Avoidah – Avodas (service) of Hashem (God) is a very generic term
In particular in chapter 15 the Alter Rebbe is focused on the notion that everyone should always be growing – striving to do more in their connection to God
8. The subconscious
One of the fundamental ideas of the Tanya is because we both have a Gody soul as well as “genetically” inherited a deep love for God from our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as such, it is not necessary to have a full intellectual contemplation of God (hence great love and reverence…) but we can bring from the subconscious to the conscious, through understanding that as Jews we are even ready to give our life for God!! (As evidenced by the millions who did!!) for though this soul may be “asleep” nonetheless when challenged it wakes up.
This shows we already have an unbreakable connection to God, so all we need to do is actualize this in day-to-day activities.
9. Ahavas Hashem – Love For God
It would be fair to say, the entire Tanya is a manual on mechanisms to increase or reveal our love for God.
There are many mechanisms mentioned:
1. The initial general awe-inspired reverence, then attraction (love) from the understanding that God is the very energy of all matter, and then relative to God, all matter is like but a single word subsumed within the heart, mind, soul of the speaker (hence as if non-existent!) and in point of fact even that is nothing.
2. There is (as mentioned in # 8) the ability to reveal the concealed love, through understanding you already love God (see there.)
3. There is the love of understanding that your soul energy is God.
4. There is the reciprocal love – this is what Moses our Master tried to install, by showing us how God descended into the filth and debased Egyptian/s to save our souls and bring us to Him in an infinitely close union (of-course any thoughts of God’s kindness to you – which much of the morning blessings and prayers do – in fact this is the entire goal of morning prayer – evoking our love for God, works.)
5. Finally there is the love of taking pleasure in God, though this is usually reserved to Tzaddikim (but a person – as mentioned in Chapter 14) should try to attain it.)
# 10 Yiras hashem – Fear of God
There are many levels of fear of God, and as the Alter Rebbe teaches in chapter 41 this is the fundamental basis of being a Jew
1. There is a low(ish) level of fear of punishment.
2. There is a higher level of fear of separation.
3. There is the highest level, whereby you are so aware of God’s constant presence, “Behold God is constantly above you and peering – gazing at your heart and intentions to see if you are genuinely serving Him,” and this awareness (in fact the very first “Mitzvah” in the “Code of Jewish Law”) leads you to a healthy reverence (in other words, just as if a friend you respect, were watching.)