Tanya – A Modern Translation


Making The “Bible of Jewish Mysticism” accessible

Title Page (Introduction)

This is a book of collected teachings


The first part, is called a book for Beinoinim (this term will be explained, as we study the book.)


This book was collected from other Kabbalistic books and from great masters.


This book is based on the Biblical verse “It is very simple to fulfill Judaism.”


The goal of this book is to clearly explain both by means of meditation, as well as arousing our innate preexisting love and fear/reverence for God (which are prerequisites for doing something not instinctively compelling, hence shifting our behavior to fulfilling Judaism.)


Chapter 1


In the Talmud/Gemarah, the end of the third Chapter of the book of Niddah, it states: (Before a soul comes into this world, it swears in heaven) “I will be good and not bad, and even if the whole world will tell me I am good, I will consider myself as bad.”


This doesn’t make sense: Elsewhere (in Pirkei Avos – Ethics of our Fathers) our sages taught, a contradictory statement, “Don’t consider yourself as bad.”


Also, it is obvious, that if someone considers themselves as bad, their heart will feel miserable, hence they will be sad, and then they won’t be able to fulfill the Mitzvah (a fundamental Biblical imperative) “Happily serve God” (do good.)


However the flip side (of too much joy is) that if we won’t feel any sense of shame, then we lose all propriety.


The explanation can be understood, based on what the Talmud (Gemarah) teaches, that there are five categories (in which all people fall into) :


A Tzaddik (perfect individual) who has but good in him or her;

A Tzaddik, but has vestiges of bad within him or her;

An Evil person, who has some good within him or her;

An evil person, who only has evil within him or her;

A Benoini.


The Gemarah clarifies:

“A Tzaddik (perfect individual) who has, but good in him or her” is a whole Tzaddik.

“A Tzaddik, but has vestiges of bad within him or her” is an incomplete Tzaddik.


The Kabbalah in Rayeh Mehemna on Parshas (The Torah portion of) Mishpatim clarifies: that “A Tzaddik, but has vestiges of bad within him or her” means, that, though there is vestiges of evil within their desires, it is nullified to the good desires.


The Gemarah in the end of the Book on Brochois (Blessings) offers the following definition: Tzaddikim are completely inspired by their Yetzer Tov (good,) Reshayim (evil people) are inspired by their Yetzer Hara (negative desires,) Beinoinim are inspired by both.


Rabbah (a Talmudic saint) commented: “For example, I am a Benoini;” so his disciple Abayah retorted (if it is, as you say, that you are a Benoini, and you being the greatest of our generation, therefore it would obviously mean, that the rest of us are Reshayim, upon whom the sages teach are the living-dead) hence you are saying, that no one is alive; (in other words, Abayah protested, that in truth his master was a Tzaddik, not a Benoini.)


Let us clearly understand all of the above anomalies.


Furthermore, we need to understand the statement of Iyov (Job) in the book of Babah Basrah Chapter 1. “Master of the world, you have created Tzaddikim, you have created Reshayim (good and bad people”) but elsewhere it states clearly: God gives man the freedom to choose, and therefore does not compel a person to be either a Tzaddik or a Rasha.


In addition, we need to understand what exactly is the essence of the level called Benoinie? for certainly it cannot be as the literal translation of Benoini, which means “in-between,” hence indicating s/he is fifty percent good and fifty percent bad; as there is no way Rabbah could have assumed he had so many sins; as it is well known, his lips never ceased from saying words of Torah, to the extent that the angel of death (who can only take one’s soul when they are not engaged in Torah study) had no power over him, so it is impossible he would believe a Benoini, is fifty percent sins!


Furthermore, we know, that as soon as one sins, one is deemed a Rasha [and likewise one who repents of sins, deemed a Tzaddik] now, even one who transgresses a simple prohibition enacted (not even from the Bible) but from the Rabbinical courts, is likewise deemed a Rasha, as taught in the second chapter of Yevomois and the first chapter of Niddah.


Furthermore, even one who doesn’t actually sin, but could have prevented another from sinning, is likewise deemed a Rasha (according to the sixth chapter of Shavois) this being the case, it stands to reason, that if one didn’t sin, but simply neglected from doing good, for example, anyone who has the time to study Torah (but wastes it) upon whom our sages applied the verse: “He mocks the words of God” “His soul shall surely be expelled;” so certainly, this lack of positive action (due to laziness) would deem one to be a Rasha far more than one would be so deemed, for transgressing a Rabbinical command (in other words, all of the above, illustrations of who is deemed a Rasha, makes us conclude that) :


It is obvious that a Benoini (is someone like Rabbah) who doesn’t even have this (almost impossible status) of not wasting a single moment from studying Torah (when possible,) and hence it was possible for Rabbah to err and think he was not a Tzaadik, but a Benoini.


This being the case, why do people usually deem a Benoini, as one with fifty percent good and fifty percent bad? and a Tzaddik, as one with a majority of good?!


The answer is, that this is only a useful description; for these names also refer to how man is rewarded or punished; namely, (when judged on Rosh Hashanah etc.) a scale of merits to demerits is used; hence one who has a majority of merits, is referred to as a Tzaddik inasmuch as s/he has successfully won the verdict.


However to be precise, the true meaning, category, and difference of levels between a Tzaddik and Benoini is, as our sages mention: “Tzaddikim are completely inspired by their Yetzer Tov (good,”) as the verse states “My heart was emptied within;” as the Tzaddik actually lacks a Yetzer Hara (desire for bad) as he (in this case, King David) eliminated the Yetzer Hara through many fasts (in other words, his constant self-refinement – 40 years of fasting daily – eliminated his Yetzer Hara completely, hence the verse “My heart was emptied – of its Yetzer Hara – within.”)


But anyone who hasn’t achieved such an exalted state – despite the fact that his merits outweigh his sins – he cannot be deemed a true Tzaddik at all.


It is for this reason, our sages taught in the Medrash, God (prophetically) saw that Tzaddikim would be few and far between; therefore, he strategically placed a few in every generation, as the verse states, “The Tzaddik is the pillar of the world.”



The explanation to the above will be understood based on the teaching of Rabbi Chaim Vital in the Chapter “The Gateway To Holiness” (Rabbi Chaim Vital was the primary disciple and scribe of the Holy Ari-Zal upon whom all subsequent Kabbalah was based – in addition, this was written in his book Eitz Chayim Chapter 2) “Every Jew, be s/he a Tzaddik or a Rasha, contains two distinct souls; as it is written, “I have created souls;” these refer to two souls, one soul comes from the forces of darkness that oppose holiness (goodness – in other words, as our sages teach, light and darkness, both creations of God, are parallel worlds; namely, that the forces of darkness mirror (though selfishly as opposed to the selflessness of light) the construct of the forces of holiness; as will be explained in greater depth, through the first 10 chapters of Tanya.)


This soul embodies (descends) into man’s blood, causing the basic life-force animating the body (for obviously there must be a soul-energy which animates the physical properties of the body, causing the physical cellular structure to be living.)


This is, as the verse states “The soul of man is in his blood.”


It is from this soul, that emerge all negative character traits, having their genesis (birth) from the four evil categories (literally sources, similar to the basic components that construct matter) :


Firstly, the negative characteristics of anger and arrogance, which emanate from the category of fire, as we see the tendency of fire to rise upward (paralleled in the ego’s desire to be better, hence the anger when demeaned, and the joy, when feeling supreme.)


Secondly, the desire for pleasure, which emanates from the category of water, as we see, water gives rise to all sorts of pleasurable foods (in other words, this is man’s instinct for pleasure / addiction etc.)


Thirdly, wasting time and comedy, boasting and meaningless conversation, emanate from the category of air (“there, but intangible.”)


And fourthly, melancholy and laziness, from the category of earth (as they are tendencies of lethargy, similar to the “lethargy” in earth.)


In addition, the good character traits which Jews innately possess genetically, as we see, Jews naturally are compassionate and care for others, emanate from this soul; for within Jews, this soul, although it comes from the forces of darkness, it comes from the dark force called Nogah, and within Nogah, there is also good; as it emanates from the source of Eitz Hadas, that is an admixture of good and evil.



In contrast, the souls of idol-worshipers are from the other forces of darkness, possessing no innate goodness whatsoever, as written in Eitz Chayim, Shaar 49, Chapter 3; therefore all the kindness done by idol-worshipers is actually selfishly motivated, as the Talmud states on the verse “The nations kindness, is evil” that all the charity and kindness done by idol-worshipers is in fact only to look good etc.


Chapter 2


The second soul in a Jew is quite literally part of God, as the verse states “And within his nostrils, he blew a soul of life” and as we say, “You blew within me my soul.”


The hidden meaning behind this is, as it teaches in the Zohar (Kabbalah) “One who blows, causes the breath to come from within” in other words, from his essence; that man’s inner essence is exhaled when one blows with all their might (as will be explained: just as we tire when blowing with all our strength, for a part of our essential being is exhaled, thus the wording, that God blows in this soul; is very symbolic.)



Similarly, to use the analogy of blowing, the souls of the Jewish people arose in God’s thought, as it is written “My firstborn son, is the Jewish people,” “You are God’s children.”


This means, just as a child emanates from the thoughts of the father, similarly so to speak, the souls of each and every Jew emanate from God’s thought and wisdom.


Now the symbolism of this, relates to another idea, that God’s wisdom is unlike the human construct which we call wisdom, for he and his wisdom are inseparable, as the Rambam writes, that he is simultaneously, the knower and the known and the knowledge (which is known) – such a conception of wisdom is impossible for a human mind to comprehend as the verse writes “if you attempt to understand God, can you?” and as it is written “My thinking patterns, are far beyond yours!”


(The above demonstrates, that the source of this second Divine soul comes from God’s thought, which are one with God, hence the notion that it is blown, that it is literally part of God’s essence!)


A question may arise – can we truly say that a great Jewish sinner – possesses such a lofty part of God? – to forestall such a question, the following idea was written by the author:


This, despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of different levels of souls amongst the Jewish people, to the extent of infinite differences; for example, the greatness of the souls of the forefathers and Mosheh Rabeinu visa-vie the souls of our generation, called the heels of Moshiach (indicating that relative to their lofty perceptions of Divinity, we like a heal, feel practically nothing.)


In addition, in every generation, are the leaders of the Jewish people, whose souls are on the category of brain and head, visa-vie the rest of their generation (for as mentioned in the first chapter, God spread the truly righteous to serve as role-models in every generation, hence their innate awareness of God / truth, allows them a vantage point, so necessary for our understanding.)


Similarly, there are vast differences on the level of Nefesh, for every soul comprises three distinct entities called nefesh, ruach, neshama (this is a lengthy subject mentioned in great brevity here.)


Nonetheless, the source of every nefesh, ruach and neshomoh in every single Jew, from the loftiest to the “lowest” souls, inhabiting the most insensitive, unfeeling; comes from God’s mind, in other words, from God himself!


An example how something very high can descend very low; is from a child, who originates in his father’s mind / thoughts (the precursor of the semen) and even the toenails are quite literally created from this drop (in other words, something as lofty as a thought, can become a toenail.) This transformation occurred, through the drop being formed into a baby during the nine months of pregnancy and there it descends, level after level, until it actually transforms itself and creates a toenail.


Nonetheless, it continues to be innately connected and united, totally and intrinsically, with its original source and being, when it was a seminal thought in the fathers mind.


(In other words, within the toenail is the DNA, which is the very same DNA of the fathers drop, so we see, how something can descend to the greatest depths and yet intrinsically be the most lofty Divine source.)

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