The title page written by the Alter Rebbe reads as follows:
מלוקט מפי ספרים ומפי סופרים קדושי עליון נ״ע
מיוסד על פסוק כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו
לבאר היטב איך הוא קרוב מאד בדרך
ארוכה וקצרה בעזה״י
LIKUTEI AMARIM (“A Compilation of Teachings”)
SEFER SHEL BEINONIM (“The Book of the Intermediates”)
Compiled from sacred books and from teachers of heavenly saintliness, whose
souls are in Eden; based upon the verse, “For this
thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it”; explaining clearly
how it is exceedingly near, in both a lengthy and a short way, with the aid of the Holy One, blessed
* * *
This verse on which the Tanya is based speaks of the obligation to
fulfill G‑d’s commandments, saying that it is very “near”, i.e., accessible, to every Jew to do so
— through three channels, which are here alluded to by the three phrases, “your heart,” “your
mouth,” and “to do it.” These phrases represent, respectively, the three faculties of thought,
speech and action. These are, as it were, the functional organs of the soul; the soul vests itself
in them in order to implement its wishes.
In a deeper sense, “your heart” refers to the emotions — experienced in the
heart — of love of G‑d and awe of Him.
When one fulfills a mitzvah out of his love of G‑d, knowing that the
only way to unite with Him is by fulfilling His commands, he will do so with an inner vitality and
pleasure, just as one does when he fulfills the wishes of a dear friend. The love of G‑d is thus a
channel for the performance of the positive mitzvot. On the other hand, one’s awe of G‑d
will prevent him from acting in violation of His wishes. He who is pervaded by this sense of awe
will be most vigilant in avoiding any transgression of the prohibitive mitzvot.
The verse thus declares that acquiring these two emotions of love and awe of
G‑d, so that they motivate one’s observance of the mitzvot, is likewise “very near to
This declaration is the basis of the Tanya. The Alter Rebbe now sets
out to explain, in both a lengthy and a brief way, how it is very near.
By nature, man’s heart desires material things. To develop a love and a desire
for G‑dliness is actually to shift one’s natural desire from one extreme — worldliness, to another —
G‑dliness. Nor is awe of G‑d easily attainable. As the Gemara attests, “Is awe of G‑d such a
small matter” How then does the verse state that it is, indeed, “very near to you”
The Alter Rebbe will explain two ways by which the attainment of love and fear
is very near: one “lengthy”, and the other “brief”.
The lengthy route is contemplation; by pondering deeply on the greatness of
G‑d and His kindness, one will generate within himself a love and awe of Him. The shorter route
consists of arousing and bringing to the surface the hidden love and awe of G‑d inherent in the
soul of every Jew; it is “short” because in this case he does not create these feelings but merely
This, then, is the basis of the Tanya.
In his modesty, the Alter Rebbe named the book Likutei Amarim — “A
Compilation of Teachings,” claiming that he did no more than collect teachings “from books and
teachers.” Chassidic tradition understands “books” as a reference to the works of the
Maharal, and the Shelah, and “teachers” as the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of
The book is popularly called Tanya, for the word with which it