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Defining ‘Right Size’

Defining ‘Right Size’

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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’d 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)

Sara Blau is a teacher and extracurricular director at Beth Rivkah High School. She is a wife, mother, and author of several children“s books.
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