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Tanya for Thursday, 16 Adar I, 5779 - February 21, 2019

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 16 Adar I

15 Adar I, 5779 - February 20, 201917 Adar I, 5779 - February 22, 2019

Chapter Thirty

[In chapter 29 the Alter Rebbe discussed various means of overcoming timtum halev - the state of insensitivity in which one's heart is dull, and unresponsive to his contemplation of G-d's greatness.

All these methods are aimed at crushing one's spirit, whereby one crushes the *cause* of the timtum halev - the arrogance of the sitra achra of the animal soul.

In (this) chapter 30, the Alter Rebbe continues this discussion by outlining another method of dealing with this problem].

One [who suffers from timtum halev] must also set his heart to fulfill the instruction of our Sages: [1] "Be thus lowly of spirit before every man."

[Now a number of commentators have noted a difficulty in this Mishnaic dictum.

For the Hebrew language distinguishes between two types of humility:

The first is a feeling of inferiority in comparison with others;

The second is the absence of self-glorification;

Even while recognizing one's superiority - the thought that his superior qualities are a G-d-given gift, (one should also keep in mind) that (had) another man (been) similarly endowed, (he) might in fact have invested them to better advantage.

The former type of humility is called Shiflut - literally, "lowliness", and the latter - Anivut.

Since the Mishnah employs the adjective Shefal Ruach, it is explicitly advocating the former type of humility, and here the difficulty arises:

Why should one regard himself as being lowlier than every man, lowlier even than the lowliest sinner?

Because of this difficulty, some commentators interpret the Mishnah as saying: "Conduct yourself self-effacingly toward every man," i.e., "Treat every man with deference, as though he were superior to you."

The Alter Rebbe, however, objects to this interpretation, as follows:

The wording implies]:

"Be thus, [lowly of spirit before every man]" and do not merely ACT thus, [and be so] in all sincerity, in the presence of *every* man, even in the presence of the most worthless of worthless men (kal shebekalim).

[Having rejected this interpretation, however, we remain with the original difficulty:

How is one expected to regard himself as being lowlier than the lowliest sinner?

In answer, the Alter Rebbe states that the introspective Beinoni will find that he often fails to wage war against his evil inclination to the same extent as the sinner is required to wage war against his desires.

Although the lapses of the Beinoni may be in seemingly inconsequential matters, they are more reprehensible than the lowly sinner's transgressions.

Thus, even the Beinoni, whose observance of the Torah and mitzvot is impeccable, can indeed regard himself as being lowlier than literally every man, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say]:

This can be accomplished by following the instruction of our Sages: [2] "Judge not your fellow man until you have stood [i.e., placed yourself in his place]."

For it is [literally] his "place" [i.e., his physical environment] that causes him to sin, since his livelihood requires him to go about the market-place all day, and [whenever he is not thus engaged] he is of those who sit at the street-corners. [Thus] his eyes see all sorts of temptation; and "what the eyes see, the heart desires."

Additionally [it may be his spiritual "place", the nature of his evil impulse, that leads him to sin]: his evil nature burns like a baker's fiery oven, [which is heated with greater frequency and intensity than a domestic oven], as it is written in Hoshea: [3] "It burns like a flaming fire."

It is different, however, with him who goes about but little in the market-place, and most of the day he is at home [rather than at the street-corners, and he therefore encounters less temptation].

Even if he does go about the market-place all day, [so that his physical "place" is the same as that of the kal shebekalim], yet it may be that [his spiritual "place" is different, in that] he is not so passionate by nature, [and is therefore not as greatly tempted by the sights of the market-place].

For the evil impulse is not the same in everyone. One person's nature [may be more passionate, and the other's less so, as explained elsewhere. [4]

But if the misdeeds of the kal shebekalim are indeed attributable to his environment and to his passionate nature, why does he deserve his derogatory appelation?

To this the Alter Rebbe replies]:



  1. (Back to text) Avot 4:10.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid. 2:4.

  3. (Back to text) See Hoshea 7:4, 6.

  4. (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 2b.

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