THE INTERMEDIATE MAN – the “BEINONI”
Rabbah declared, “I am a Beinoni”. Abaye said to him, “Master, you make it impossible for any creature to live”
Rabbah was a genius scholar who lived between the year 270 and 330 BCE. Abaye, a Talmudic genius himself, pointed out that if such as great scholar as Rabbah was a Beinoni, no one could even come close!
Its rather obvious that a Beinoni, an intermediate person as it were, cannot have half good deeds and half bad deeds, since it was known that Rabbah never ceased studying Torah and was a righteous person. How, then, could Rabbah mistakenly call himself a Beinoni? Clearly, a better definition of Beinoni is needed.
The Alter Rebbe teaches us that indeed when a person sins he is deemed as if his is completely wicked and when a person then repents, he is deemed completely righteous. Even a person who commits a minor sin is deemed thus. And even a person who has the chance to warn someone else not to sin is deemed such.
Therefore, a Beinoni must not be guilty of even neglecting his Torah studies. Now we can see how Rabbah considered himself a Beinoni. Only in common language is an intermediate man a “half and half”, i.e. half sins and half good deeds.
THE TRUE DEFINITIONS OF RIGHTEOUS AND BEINONI
We learn in the Tanya that the righteous are motivated and ruled solely by their good nature. A righteous person has totally rid himself of his evil inclination.
The person who has not yet rid himself of his evil inclination cannot even be called “righteous”, even if his good deeds outweigh his bad deeds. Not only this, but such a person cannot even call himself a Beinoni!
Tough sledding, no? So what did G-d do about this?
G-d knew that the truly righteous were in actuality few and far between, so he sprinkled these people across the generations. The truly righteous person is called “the foundation of the world”. Therefore, in every generation, even our own, there exists at least one true tzaddik who serves as the foundation of the world.
Again, this use of the word righteous does not mean someone whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, since most Jews fall into this category.
Next we will learn about the two types of souls, as a means to better understand the above concepts.