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Accessing the Hidden Love

Accessing the Hidden Love

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The title page of the Tanya's first printed edition (1796)
The title page of the Tanya's first printed edition (1796)

In 1796, a new book on Jewish philosophy was printed and ready for distribution. It was written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad branch of Chassidism, and in his humility he titled it Likutei Amarim, "a compilation of sayings." Many simply called it "the Tanya" (the first word of the opus). The Tanya quickly gained immense popularity. The first edition published 15,000 copies. The next year a second printing, with 5,000 copies, and a year later a third printing with 20,000 copies came off the printing press. To date the Tanya has seen thousands of printings and ever-increasing popularity.

Why was the Tanya so novel? Who was the Rebbe's target audience and what was his objective for them? Looking no further than the Tanya's title page we read the Rebbe's self-stated mission statement spelled out lucidly:

…based on the verse, "For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it" (Deuteronomy 30:14); explaining clearly how it is exceedingly near, in both a lengthy and a short way, with the aid of the Holy One, blessed by He.

Committing to the mitzvot is not like plastering a super-imposed persona of morality to cover up our true animalistic selfLet's go to the verse that the Rebbe quotes as the basis for his writing. In the end of Deuteronomy, Moses gives a final speech before his passing. In it he makes this elusive remark, "For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it." Though Moses doesn't specify what "thing" he's referring to, from the context of his words it is clear to the commentators that what's "close to our heart" is loving G‑d, and what's "close to our mouth and actions" (i.e. "that you may do it") is the performance of G‑d's commandments. Moses assures us that loving G‑d is close—accessible to the average human being. And living a Torah lifestyle becomes a natural labor of love when it's predicated upon a love and affection toward our Creator. In other words committing to the restrictions and obligations that G‑d dictates is not like plastering a super-imposed persona of morality to cover up our true animalistic self. To the contrary, with love, G‑d's mitzvot will feel close to us, they will resonate with everything that we really want out of life.

Most people have a natural affinity towards money, a natural love of attention and enjoy nicer things. But for most of us, loving G‑d just doesn't come natural. Stress, disappointment and apathy are tall obstacles that stand in the way of living inspired. Yet Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi sees in Moses's word an affirmation and an opportunity. Perhaps it is possible to develop a vibrant and emotional relationship with G‑d. So confident is he, that he devotes the fifty-two chapters of the Tanya to systematically explaining how to actualize Moses's promise.

One of the first things that the Rebbe establishes is that we have an innate love for G‑d. A gift that we're born with, a love that can never be extinguished. The Rebbe calls this the ahavah misuteret, the (oftentimes) "hidden love." Unfortunately this love usually becomes so deeply submerged in our consciousness that we can't feel it. But we all have the ability to access that latent love, awaken it, and tap into its inspiration.

Sometimes the ahavah misuteret will feel threatened and immediately jump into action. Here's a true example of this phenomenon:

Living in Hebron, Israel, in the 1920s was a teenage Jewish boy who became alienated from his friends and instead hung out with his Arab neighbors. In 1929, a group of Arabs broke into the Hebron Yeshivah and massacred more then 50 people in cold blood. On that very day the Jewish boy was playing cards with his Arab friends in their home when the murderers barged into the home and shouted. "Any Jews here?!" The Arab friends covered for him and shouted back, "No!" The gang left. But something stirred within the Jewish boy. He started fidgeting and then, much to his friends' dismay, he jumped up and ran out of the house. He ran towards the gang of murderers and when he reached them he yelled, "They were wrong—I am a Jew." He was immediately shot and killed. Apparently his love for G‑d couldn't tolerate being blatantly denied and burst out to defend itself.

The Rebbe calls his strategy the "long and short way." Long, because it takes concentrated effort; short, because it is effectiveBut when our identity of love doesn't feel radically threatened, it lays low and doesn't overwhelm us. To the contrary, it waits for us to stimulate it. The Rebbe develops a remarkable strategy to awaken this love and calls it the "long and short way." It is long because it takes concentrated effort, but short because it is effective.

The Tanya talks to the Jew who strives deeply to do G‑d's commands not out of habit or social obligation but rather from a place of developing a relationship with Him. The Rebbe's methodology has changed the lives of the millions who have studied his groundbreaking book.

To find out more about his method, join a Tanya class today!

Mrs Rochel Holzkenner is a mother of four children and the co-director of Chabad of Las Olas, Fla., serving the community of young professionals. She is a high-school teacher and a freelance writer—and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. She lectures extensively on topics of Kabbalah and feminism, and their application to everyday life.
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Artisticalexis Surrey, BC CANADA September 19, 2014

Thanking an Antisemite... I grew up in a small town that was very antisemitic. I still have the yearbook where classmates drew swastikas to wish me a good summer. But just as in the story, I was so deeply pulled toward Hashem and my heritage instead of away. A few years later as I rebelled as a teenager by becoming religious, I remember telling my youth Rabbi my experiences asking, "How does one react when in a situation where they're re constantly ostracized forply being a Jew?"

W/ hardly any thought he responded, "By saying thank you!"

"Thank you?" I asked, puzzled as to why I should show gratitude to being horribly singled out for something they had no control over, like being born Jewish.

"You should thank them for reminding you that you are a Jew, that you are different than them. Hashem gave us a duty and a role in life and they helped to remind you of that. "

I realised I had done that, since that's when I 1st heard G-d call. Even in those dark moments, we have a chance to hear G-d's messages. Reply

Marty Denver September 1, 2013

The Greatest Challenge Why does G-d command us to love Him? If it was easy or natural to love G-d, He wouldn't have commanded us to do so. But it's difficult to love G-d.Why? Because we are programmed for reciprocity, i.e., though we know life isn't fair, we crave justice. The Torah is a quid pro quo. G-d makes it very clear that if we do these things we will be rewarded in this life. But it doesn't happen. We see immense cruelty everywhere in life and the world. We know G-d could stop it whenever He wished. But He doesn't. Victims of crime often despise bystanders who did nothing more than the perpetrator. That is why Holocaust put G-d on trial and found Him guilty. Yet, if we can manage to love G-d despite all that, then we can love everyone, even love our enemy. Reply

R August 26, 2013

Chabad is a way of life. It encourages, reaches out, and teaches us. From my paltry Jewish education in a non-religious childhood, I am grateful to Chabad for their teachings, their remarkable outreach wherever I am in the world, and their acceptance of me, despite my ignorance.

Some Christians use a phrase, "G-d is Love".

It is clear to me that CHABAD is Love of G-d. Reply

YL August 25, 2013

that's it? we need more here! The author presents a very pulling piece about Tanya and then simply tells us to take a class? No! We want to learn more about exactly what the author is writing about. Please expand on this exact subject! It is needed in today's world. Reply

Alma Lopez Hollywood, Fl August 25, 2013

'Very Near' I have a profound admiration and love for the Alter Rebbe, Tanya is definitely a gift from heaven, that teaches us how to transform darkness to light or even more transcendental, to see the light even in the most obscure place. I believe in my heart that, that is the purity of the Alter Rebbe's mind.
The love description in this case it is to radical and unfortunately opposite to a loving message.
Reply

Anonymous nY, nY September 1, 2010

find a Tanya Class today I've attempted to study The Tanya, several times for the last twenty three years. But it has always left me with very mixed feelings of confusion, lofty ideals and lack of faith in my abilities to be a good jew. I attended classes on Tanya given by dedicated Chabad Rabbis in the various communities I lived from Jerusalem to San Francisco. And I still try today to learn Tanya, through Chabad.org, and I still feel blocked to get the essence of the message that is being tried to be conveyed.
G-d must have sensed my honest effort and desire to grow in Torah because He sent on my way the teachings of "BILVAVI". "Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh" is the name of a book by an Israeli Rabbi, whose name became known as Rav Itamar Schwartz, shlita. The web site is called: bilvavi.net
I feel I started understanding the essence of what Tanya is through the lectures of Bilvavi. Reply

Anonymous Flushing September 1, 2010

WOW That was a very moving story to illustrate such a point! Reply

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