Chapter 2 – The G-dly Soul (Part 1)

The Alter Rebbe says that the second soul that pertains specifically to the Jewish people is truly “part of G-d above”. G-d designated the Jewish people as His chosen people. This means that the Jewish people, indeed their very soul and nature, emanates from that special innermost part of the being of G-d. Allegorically speaking, the Jewish soul rises in the Divine Thought. The rest of creation, including angels, emanates from Divine Speech, as it were.

Taking this concept a little further, it is said that the Jewish soul is in actuality part of G-d himself. Maimonides teaches us that G-d is simultaneously the Knowledge and the Knower. Therefore if the godly soul of a Jew emanates from G-d’s thought then it actually emanates from G-d himself. As Hashem said in the Torah, “For My thoughts are not like your thoughts”.

This concept of G-d and knowledge is completely different from the human concept of knowledge. In the person there are three components of knowledge.

A person’s soul is the possessor, or “Knower” of knowledge. Next is the knowledge itself. Lastly, the subject of the knowledge is the “Known”.

Not so with G-d. The Rambam tells us that G-d is all of the above simultaneously. The Rambam admits that this is indeed a very difficult concept to understand. This is what is meant by saying the Jewish soul is a part of G-d above.

And the Sages of the Kabbalah have agreed with him as is stated in Pardess of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Also according to the Kabbalah of the “Ari” (Rabbi Isaac Luria) this is substantiated in the mystic principle of the “Clothing of the Light” of the En Sof, Blessed be He, through numerous contractions within the vessels ChaBaD of [the world of] Atzilut (Emanation), but no higher than that. For, as is explained elsewhere, the En Sof, blessed be He, is infinitely exalted over, and transcends, the essence and level of ChaBaD, which in relation to Him are regarded as a material action, as is written, “Thou hast made them all with wisdom.”

Wait, wha? That’s next…

Chapter 1 – Two Souls (Part 3)

Every single Jew, whether they are “good” or “wicked”, possesses two souls.

One of these souls originates in the Kelipah and Sitra Achra. Let’s define this.

KELIPAH

The word “Kelipah” in Hebrew means a shell or a peel. In Kabbalah, this term is used to describe “evil” generally. In essence, G-d created certain forces which hide or conceal the G-dly life force which is found in all creation, similar to a peel covering a fruit. We will learn more about KELIPOT later.

SITRA ACHRA

This phrase literally means “the other side”. This term generally refers to the “side” that is the opposite of Holiness or G-dliness.

Kelipah and Sitra Achra are generally synonomous. (Yes I know that is way more uses of the word generally than I like to put in print).

 

So, one soul is clothed as it were in the blood of a human being, which gives rise to life in the body. From this soul (nefesh, in Hebrew) stem all the evil characteristics that we know. Namely:

  • Anger
  • Pride
  • Appetite for pleasures
  • Frivolity
  • Scoffing
  • Idle talk
  • Boasting
  • Sloth
  • Melancholy

Interestingly, the Alter Rebbe teaches us that from this soul also stems the good characteristics inherent in every Jew, namely compassion and benevolence.

In the Jew, this soul, with these good characteristics, are derived from the Kelipah called “Nogah”, which contains good. The Alter Rebbe teaches us that this Kelipah comes from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Alter Rebbe continues on: the souls of the nations come from the other unclean kelipot, which contain no “good” whatsoever.

A LESSON

An important lesson for us to learn here is that our motivation for acting compassionately must be motivated by no other purpose than that of concern for the welfare of our fellow. If a person needs not our help, then we should take greater happiness in them not needing help that we would if we performed an act of kindness ourselves.

The “nations of the world” do the opposite. They are upset that a person doesn’t need their help, because it deprives them of the reward they anticipate from doing a good deed.

We must perform acts of kindness out of unselfish motives, and delight in the good welfare of our fellow.

 

Chapter 1 – Two Souls (Part 2)

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.

 

Chapter 1 – Two Souls (part 1)

Be Righteous and be not Wicked; and even if the whole world tells you that you are righteous, regard yourself as wicked.

– Talmud, Niddah, end of Chapter 3

Be not Wicked in your own estimation.

– Mishnah, Avot, Chapter 2

Sounds simple right? A question: If the Mishnah teaches us not to view ourselves as wicked, and the Talmud tells us to regard ourselves as wicked, what are we to do?

I think its fair to say most people in the world try and be “good”, to do the right thing most of the time. And honestly, if we each thought of ourselves as being wicked or generally bad, that’s a pretty depressing thing.

The Torah is replete with sayings and dicta telling us to serve Hashem (G-d) with joy and gladness. Check out the book of Psalms and see how many times the Psalmist (usually King David but not always) references singing, musical instruments, dancing, etc.

So if I have to be good, but consider myself bad, how am I not to let that paradox bum me out? The Tanya gives us guidance.

The Talmud tells us about five different types of people:

  1. A righteous man who prospers
  2. A righteous man who suffers
  3. A wicked man who prospers
  4. A wicked man who suffers
  5. An intermediate man, called the “Beinoni”

THE RIGHTEOUS MAN WHO PROSPERS

This type of person is very rare. This person is a completely righteous person. And I don’t mean righteous in the normal way we understand and use that word. This individual does not require any physical suffering at all to cleanse his soul. This is an extremely high spiritual level.

THE RIGHTEOUS MAN WHO SUFFERS

This person is also referred to as the “incomplete tzaddik”. This person still deals with a measure of physical suffering in order that his soul may be cleansed while it is still in his body, i.e. before death. This too is an enormously high spiritual level to obtain. We learn in the Ra’aya Mehemna (Parshat Mishpatim) that any evil that may exist inside this person is subservient to the good that is inside him. Good conquers evil as it will. The complete tzaddik above does not have this battle raging inside him.

It is interesting to note that “evil” as used here refers to nothing more than the general tendencies towards bad behavior that all people have inside them. “Evil” here does not imply that this person is somehow a bad person. This person’s actions, thought and speech are not “evil” in any way.

THE WICKED WHO PROSPER & SUFFER

Similarly, these people are governed more by their evil inclination rather than their good inclination.

In the next lesson we will learn about the Beinoni, the person who is the main focus of the Tanya