In an all-too-human fashion, we sometimes find ourselves
swinging from feelings of grandiosity to feelings of incompetency. One minute, we are G‑d’s gift to the
planet and then the next, encompassed by feelings of insignificance, we are
lowly creatures for having base desires. To clear both misconceptions, theWe find ourselves swinging from feelings of grandiosity to incompetency
Tanya helps us become “right-sized” in our minds, understanding that we may
never be perfect like a tzaddik, nor
does struggle define us as evil.
There’s something else the Tanya clarifies. On our own, we
would likely fail. Left to our own devices, the animal soul would be extremely
powerful, winning many battles against our G‑dly soul. The animal soul states
its opinion (it’s just a “white lie”), and the G‑dly soul states its opinion
(be honest and truthful), but a final verdict needs to be issued.
That’s where G‑d Himself helps us, as our sages say: “[Man’s
evil inclination gathers strength daily, … and] if the Almighty did not help
him [i.e., help his good inclination], he could not overcome it.” Our G‑dly
soul is granted with an extra dose of holiness that serves as a “helper” to
encourage this Divine soul to win out.
At the same time, in order to still feelings of smugness or
complacency when we are doing the right thing, we are cautioned to
“be in your own eyes like a rasha [‘sinner’].” This is not to be mistaken as thinking
that we are actually sinners, but that we are like them; beneath the surface, there is an animal soul lurking,
urging us to sin. However, with G‑d’s help, we overcome its desires, striving
at all times for behavioral control.
Does the animal soul ever pipe down? It does. When a Beinoni—your
average Jew who is controlling his thoughts, speech and action—prays
(the Shema and the Amidah) with intense love of G‑d, the animal soul “goes to
sleep,” lying dormant and ceasing its distracting chatter.
But the rest of the day? For most of us, the majority of it
is spent managing the homefront, ensuring that the G‑dly soul emerge victorious
in this world of continuous internal conflict.
Tanya Bit: During prayer, we can experience temporary relief from the
desires of our animal soul.
(Inspired from Chapter 13 of Tanya)