תניא בסוף פרק ג׳ דנדה: משביעים אותו
We have learned (Niddah, end of ch. 3): “An oath is administered to him:
Before a Jew is born an oath is administered to him in heaven, charging him:
תהי צדיק ואל תהי רשע, ואפילו כל העולם כולו אומרים לך צדיק אתה היה בעיניך כרשע
‘Be righteous and be not wicked; and even if the whole world judging you by your actions tells you that you are righteous, regard yourself as wicked.’”
The soul of a Jew descends into a body for a purpose — in order to fulfill a specific spiritual mission in this world. To enable him to fulfill it a heavenly oath is administered to him that he “be righteous and not wicked,” and concurrently, that he regard himself as wicked and not righteous. The root (שׁבע) of the verb משׁביעים (“an oath is administered”) is virtually identical with the root (שׂבע) of the verb משׂביעים (“one causes [him] to be sated”). Accordingly, the oath charging him to be righteous may also be understood to mean that the soul is thereby invested (“sated”) with the power that enables it to fulfill its destiny in life on earth.
וצריך להבין, דהא תנן אבות פרק ב׳ : ואל תהי רשע בפני עצמך
This requires to be understood, for we have learned in the Mishnah [Avot, ch. 2], “Be not wicked in your own estimation.”
How, then, can we say that an oath is administered to the soul that it regard itself as wicked, when this directly contradicts the Mishnaic injunction not to regard oneself as wicked?
וגם אם יהיה בעיניו כרשע ירע לבבו ויהיה עצב
Furthermore, if a person considers himself wicked, he will be grieved at heart and depressed,
ולא יוכל לעבוד ה׳ בשמחה ובטוב לבב
and consequently will not be able to serve G‑d joyfully and with a contented heart;
Apart from the previously mentioned contradiction from the Mishnah, an additional question is now raised. A cardinal principle in the service of G‑d is that it be performed with joy — joy at the privilege of serving Him either through performing a positive command or by refraining from that which is prohibited. How then can one be required to take an oath to consider himself wicked, when this will cause him to be depressed, making it impossible for him to serve G‑d with joy?
Furthermore, just as the first part of the oath, “Be righteous and be not wicked,” is vital to his success in realizing his life’s mission, so too the fulfillment of the second part of the oath, that he consider himself wicked, is imperative. How can this possibly be so, when such an attitude hinders his joyful service of G‑d?
ואם לא ירע לבבו כלל מזה
while if his heart will not be at all grieved by this self-appraisal,
I.e., if we should propose that in order to fulfill the oath the person will indeed regard himself as wicked, but at the same time will resolve that his wickedness shall not perturb him, so as not to encumber his joyful service of G‑d,
יכול לבוא לידי קלות חס ושלום
he may be led to irreverence, G‑d forbid, by such an attitude, with sin perturbing him not at all.
For although his original resolve that being wicked will not perturb him stems only from his sincere desire to serve G‑d with joy, yet such a resolution may very well lead to a situation where wickedness will truly not disturb him.
However, the [above] matter will be more clearly understood after a preliminary discussion of the true meaning of “righteous” and “wicked”.
כי הנה מצינו בגמרא ה׳ חלוקות: צדיק וטוב לו, צדיק ורע לו
We find in the Gemara five distinct types: a righteous man who prospers, materially as well as spiritually — he knows only good; a righteous man who suffers, in both a material as well as spiritual sense: spiritually, he has not yet vanquished all his evil, and in the material sense too he is wanting;
רשע וטוב לו, רשע ורע לו, ובינוני
a wicked man in whom there is some good and who prospers; a wicked man who suffers spiritually and materially; and an intermediate man — the Beinoni.
ופירשו בגמרא: צדיק וטוב לו — צדיק גמור
The Gemara explains: “the righteous man who prospers” is the consummate lit., “complete” tzaddik;
Once he has achieved this level, physical suffering — to cleanse the soul from the impurities of sin — is unnecessary; he therefore prospers materially as well.
צדיק ורע לו — צדיק שאינו גמור
the “righteous man who suffers” is the imperfect lit., “incomplete” tzaddik.
He therefore experiences some measure of material suffering, thereby cleansing the soul while it is yet clothed in the body, so that he will not have to endure any spiritual suffering in the World to Come.
Accordingly, the Gemara is not referring to two tzaddikim on the same spiritual level, one of whom prospers while the other suffers; rather, it speaks of two distinct levels of tzaddikim. The Gemara thus cites only two characterizations regarding the tzaddik — “consummate” and “imperfect” (lit., “complete” and “incomplete”). The terms “who prospers” or “who suffers” do not indicate his spiritual level: they merely describe his resultant material status.
וברעיא מהימנא פרשת משפטים פירש: צדיק ורע לו — שהרע שבו כפוף לטוב וכו'
In Ra‘aya Mehemna (Parshat Mishpatim) it is explained that “the righteous man who suffers” is one whose evil nature is subservient to his good nature.
He is a tzaddik who still retains some vestige of evil, albeit subservient to his good nature. Accordingly, a “righteous man who prospers” is a tzaddik in whom there is only good, since he has totally transformed his evil nature.
According to the Zohar (of which Ra‘aya Mehemna is a part), the terms “who prospers” and “who suffers” also indicate and describe the level of the tzaddik. The “tzaddik who prospers” is a tzaddik in whom there is only good — the evil within him having already been transformed to good; the “tzaddik who suffers” is a tzaddik of lower stature — one who still harbors some evil.
However, we must now understand why redundant titles are given to each level of tzaddik: “complete tzaddik” and “tzaddik who prospers”; “incomplete tzaddik” and “tzaddik who suffers.” If the “complete tzaddik” is the “tzaddik who prospers” (i.e., in whom there is only good) and the “incomplete tzaddik” is the “tzaddik who suffers” (i.e., retains a vestige of evil), why then is it necessary to give each tzaddik two appellations?
The explanation provided further (in ch. 10) is that each descriptive term denotes a specific aspect of the divine service of the tzaddik. The terms “complete tzaddik” and “incomplete tzaddik” denote the level of service of the tzaddik’s G‑dly soul, i.e., the tzaddik’s love of G‑d, for it is by virtue of this love that he is called “tzaddik.” The “complete tzaddik” is he who has attained perfection in his love of G‑d in a manner of ahavah betaanugim (“love of delights”) — the serene love of fulfillment. The tzaddik whose ahavah betaanugim is as yet imperfect is called the “incomplete (or unperfected) tzaddik.”
The terms “tzaddik who prospers” and “tzaddik who suffers” denote the tzaddik’s status vis-à-vis his efforts in transforming his animal soul to holiness. For the tzaddik, through his lofty service of ahavah betaanugim, transforms the evil within him into holiness and good. The designation “tzaddik who prospers” indicates that he has already totally transformed the evil within him and now good alone remains, while the “tzaddik who suffers” is one who has not yet managed to totally transform the evil within him to good; a vestige of it still remains.
The explanations that follow make it abundantly clear that the evil referred to here is no more than an amorphous evil still harbored in the heart of the “incomplete tzaddik.” For the tzaddik has no association with actual evil that manifests itself in thought or speech, and most certainly not with the evil that finds expression in actions.
ובגמרא סוף פרק ט׳ דברכות: צדיקים יצר טוב שופטן כו׳, רשעים יצר הרע שופטן
In the Gemara (end of ch. 9 of Berachot) [it is stated] that the righteous are “judged” i.e., motivated and ruled by their good nature, their good nature having the final say; the wicked are judged i.e., motivated and ruled by their evil nature, their evil nature having the final say;
בינונים זה וזה שופטן וכו׳
intermediate men are “judged” by both the good and evil nature.
אמר רבה: כגון אנא בינוני. אמר ליה אביי: לא שביק מר חיי לכל בריה וכו׳
Rabbah declared: “I, for example, am a ‘Beinoni’.” Said Abbaye to him, “Master, you make it impossible for any creature to live.”
Abbaye argued thus: “If you are a Beinoni, then all those on a lower level than you fall into the category of the wicked, concerning whom our Sages say: ‘The wicked, even while alive, are considered dead.’ By calling yourself a Beinoni you thus make it impossible for anyone to live.”
ולהבין כל זה באר היטב
To understand all the aforesaid clearly [an explanation is called for].
In addition to the question which will soon follow — that according to the common conception of a Beinoni as a person having half mitzvot and half transgressions, how could a great sage like Rabbah mistake himself for a Beinoni — a further question is implied:
If a Beinoni is simply one having half mitzvot and half transgressions, then his status is readily identifiable, and there is no possible room for debate.
וגם להבין מה שאמר איוב בבא בתרא פרק א׳ : רבונו של עולם, בראת צדיקים בראת רשעים כו׳
And also to understand the statement of Job [Bava Batra ch. 1]: “L‑rd of the Universe! You have created righteous men, You have created wicked men,....”
והא צדיק ורשע לא קאמר
for He does not decree [which persons are to be] righteous and wicked.
The Gemara relates that G‑d decrees that a child about to be born will be wise or foolish, strong or weak, and so on. However, whether the child will be righteous or wicked G‑d does not say: this is not predetermined; rather, it is left to the individual’s free choice.
How, then, are we to understand Job’s plaint, “You have created righteous men, You have created wicked men”?
וגם להבין מהות מדריגת הבינוני
We must also understand the essential nature (mahut) of the rank of the Beinoni.
The mahut of a tzaddik is righteousness; the mahut of the wicked man is evil. What is the mahut — the essential nature — of the Beinoni?
שבודאי אינו מחצה זכיות ומחצה עוונות, שאם כן איך טעה רבה בעצמו לומר שהוא בינוני
He is certainly not one whose deeds are half virtuous and half sinful; for if this were so, how could Rabbah err in [classifying] himself as a Beinoni?
ונודע דלא פסיק פומיה מגירסא, עד שאפילו מלאך המות לא היה יכול לשלוט בו
— when it is known that his mouth never ceased studying [the Torah], so much so that even the Angel of Death had no dominion over him.
Such was Rabbah’s diligence that he did not neglect his studies for even one moment. Qualitatively too, his learning was on so high a plane that the Angel of Death was unable to overpower him.
ואיך היה יכול לטעות במחצה עוונות, חס ושלום
How, then, could he err in considering that half his deeds were sinful, G‑d forbid?
ועוד, שהרי בשעה שעושה עונות נקרא רשע גמור
Furthermore, when can a person be considered a Beinoni? For at the time one sins until he repents he is deemed completely wicked,
ואם אחר כך עשה תשובה נקרא צדיק גמור
(and if he was sinful and then repented, thus ceasing to be wicked, he is deemed completely righteous).
ואפילו העובר על איסור קל של דברי סופרים מקרי רשע, כדאיתא בפרק ב׳ דיבמות ובפרק קמא דנדה
Even he who violates a minor prohibition of the Rabbis is termed wicked, as is stated in Yevamot, ch. 2, and in Niddah, ch. 1.
ואפילו מי שיש בידו למחות ולא מיחה נקרא רשע בפרק ו׳ דשבועות
Moreover, even he who himself does not sin, but has the opportunity to forewarn another against sinning and fails to do so is termed wicked [Shevuot, ch. 6].
וכל שכן וקל וחומר במבטל איזו מצות עשה שאפשר לו לקיימה
All the more so he who neglects any positive law which he is able to fulfill,
כמו כל שאפשר לו לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק
for instance, whoever is able to study Torah and does not do so,
שעליו דרשו רבותינו ז״ל: כי דבר ה׳ בזה וגו׳ הכרת תכרת וגו׳
to whom our Sages have applied the verse, “Because he has despised the word of the L‑rd (i.e., the Torah),.[that soul] shall be utterly cut off....”
ופשיטא דמקרי רשע טפי מעובר איסור דרבנן
It is thus plain that such a person is called wicked, more so than he who violates a prohibition of the Sages.
ואם כן על כרחך הבינוני אין בו אפילו עון ביטול תורה
This being so, we must conclude that the Beinoni is not guilty even of the sin of neglecting to study Torah;
a sin most difficult to avoid, and counted among those sins that people transgress daily.
ומשום הכי טעה רבה בעצמו לומר שהוא בינוני
This is why Rabbah mistook himself for a Beinoni.
Since a Beinoni is innocent even of neglecting Torah study, Rabbah could [mistakenly] consider himself a Beinoni, even though he scrupulously observed even the most minor commandments and never ceased from his studies.
ומה שכתוב בזהר חלק ג׳ דף רל״א: כל שממועטין עונותיו וכו׳ —
As for what is written in the Zohar III, p. 231: “He whose sins are few [is classed as a ‘righteous man who suffers’],”
implying that even according to the Zohar the meaning of a “righteous man who suffers” is one who does have sins, albeit few; and if so, a Beinoni must be one who is in part virtuous and in part sinful,
היא שאלת רב המנונא לאליהו
this is the query of Rav Hamnuna to Elijah.
אבל לפי תשובת אליהו שם הפי' צדיק ורע לו הוא כמ"ש בר"מ פרשה משפטים דלעיל
But according to Elijah’s answer [ibid.], the meaning of a “righteous man who suffers” is as stated in Ra‘aya Mehemna on Parshat Mishpatim, quoted above, i.e., that the “righteous man who suffers” is one whose evil nature is subservient to his good nature.
ושבעים פנים לתורה
And the Torah has seventy facets (modes of interpretation).
The Rebbe notes that the words, “And the Torah has seventy facets,” help us understand Rav Hamnuna’s query. It is difficult to understand how Rav Hamnuna would even entertain the notion that a “righteous man who suffers” is one who actually sins, inasmuch as all the abovementioned questions clearly lead us to assume the opposite. Rav Hamnuna’s query, however, was prompted only by the fact that “the Torah has seventy facets,” and he thought that this was possibly one of these facets.
END OF NOTE
והא דאמרינן בעלמא דמחצה על מחצה מקרי בינוני ורוב זכיות מקרי צדיק
As for the well-known saying that one [whose deeds and misdeeds are] equally balanced is called a Beinoni, while [he who has] a majority of virtues outweighing his sins is called a tzaddik,
הוא שם המושאל
this is only a borrowed name, i.e., a figurative use of the term borrowed from its true usage in order to emphasize a particular point. Thus the names Beinoni and tzaddik, denoting a balance between merits and sins, are in fact but borrowed names
לענין שכר ועונש
used in regard to reward and punishment,
לפי שנדון אחר רובו
because one is judged according to the majority [of his deeds],
ומקרי צדיק בדינו מאחר שזוכה בדין
and he is termed “righteous” in reference to his verdict, since he is acquitted at his trial.
It is only in this legal sense that the term tzaddik is applied to one who performs more good deeds than evil.
אבל לענין אמיתת שם התואר והמעלה של מעלת ומדריגות חלוקות צדיקים ובינונים
If, however, we seek to truly define the distinct qualities and ranks of tzaddikim and Beinonim,
אמרו רבותינו ז״ל: צדיקים — יצר טוב שופטן, שנאמר: ולבי חלל בקרבי
our Sages have remarked that the righteous are “judged” i.e., motivated and ruled, solely by their good nature, as it is written, “And my heart is slain within me,”
שאין לו יצר הרע כי הרגו בתענית
meaning that he i.e., David, the author of this verse was devoid of an evil nature, having slain it through fasting.
David extirpated his evil nature through fasting; other ways too are possible.
We thus see from the Gemara that the definition of tzaddik in its true sense applies to the person who has rid himself of his evil nature.
אבל כל מי שלא הגיע למדרגה זו, אף שזכיותיו מרובים על עונותיו, אינו במעלת ומדריגת צדיק כלל
But whoever has not attained this degree of ridding himself of his evil nature, even though his virtues outnumber his sins, is not at all at the level and rank of tzaddik.
In fact, not only has he not reached the rank of tzaddik: he has not yet attained even the level of Beinoni, as has been demonstrated above.
ולכן אמרו רבותינו ז״ל במדרש: ראה הקדוש ברוך הוא בצדיקים שהם מועטים, עמד ושתלן בכל דור ודור וכו׳
This is why our Sages have expounded: “The Almighty saw that the righteous were few, so He arose and planted i.e., and spread them in every generation,”
וכמו שכתוב: וצדיק יסוד עולם
[for,] as it is written, “The tzaddik is the foundation of the world.”
Thus, in each generation there must be a tzaddik who serves as the “foundation of the world.”
This paucity of tzaddikim (“The righteous were few”) can be explained only if a tzaddik is he who has totally rid himself of his evil nature. Were the term tzaddik to mean one whose good deeds outweigh the evil, why then do our Sages say that “the righteous were few,” when the overwhelming majority of Jews have more good deeds than evil!
אך ביאור הענין
However, the explanation of the matter, so that we better understand the levels of tzaddik and Beinoni, as well as the various gradations within their ranks,
על פי מה שכתב הרב חיים ויטאל ז״ל בשער הקדושה ובעץ חיים שער נ׳ פרק ב׳
[is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote in Shaar HaKedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 50, ch. 2) —
דלכל איש ישראל אחד צדיק ואחד רשע יש שתי נשמות
that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls,
וכדכתיב: ונשמות אני עשיתי,
as it is written, “And neshamot (souls) which I have made.”
Though the verse speaks of an individual Jew (as is indicated by the singular form of the word ruach (spirit) in the preceding phrase, “When the spirit of a man which emanates from Me will be humbled...”), the plural term souls is nevertheless used, indicating that every Jew possesses two souls.
שהן שתי נפשות
These are two nefashot — two souls and life-forces.
נפש אחת מצד הקליפה וסטרא אחרא
One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.
“Kelipah” means a shell or peel. G-d created forces which conceal the G-dly life-force found in all creation as a peel covers and conceals a fruit. “Sitra achra” means “the other side” — the side of creation that is the antithesis of holiness and purity. (The two terms are generally synonymous.)
והיא המתלבשת בדם האדם להחיות הגוף
It is this nefesh (which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra) that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body;
וכדכתיב: כי נפש הבשר בדם היא
as it is written, “For the nefesh of the flesh (i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life) is in the blood.”
וממנה באות כל המדות רעות מארבעה יסודות רעים שבה
From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.
Just as the four physical elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the foundation of all physical entities, so too is this nefesh comprised of four corresponding spiritual elements. Since they derive from kelipah and evil, they themselves are evil, and from them in turn one’s evil characteristics come into being.
דהיינו: כעס וגאוה מיסוד האש שנגבה למעלה
Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards;
Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.
ותאות התענוגים מיסוד המים, כי המים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג
the appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.
The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.
והוללות וליצנות והתפארות ודברים בטלים מיסוד הרוח
frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; like air, they lack substance;
ועצלות ועצבות מיסוד העפר
and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.
Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.
וגם מדות טובות שבטבע כל ישראל בתולדותם, כמו רחמנות וגמילות חסדים, באות ממנה
From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew’s character, such as compassion and benevolence.
But since this is a nefesh of kelipah and evil, how do good characteristics come from it? This matter is now addressed.
כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב
For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from the kelipah called “nogah”, which also contains good; and the good within this nefesh gives rise to these positive natural traits.
והיא מסוד עץ הדעת טוב ורע
[This kelipah] is from the esoteric “Tree of Knowledge” [which is comprised] of good and evil.
מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל
The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever,
כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין
as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.
Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.
וכדאיתא בגמרא על פסוק: וחסד לאומים חטאת — שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות העולם עושין אינן אלא להתייהר כו׳
So the Gemara comments on the verse, “The kindness of the nations is sin” — that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification...
When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.
Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive — the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.
It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah. Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.
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