In the second chapter of his seminal work, Tanya, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), quotes a verse from the book of Job describing the soul as "a part of G‑d above"; and then adds a one-word modifier that revolutionized the way we think about ourselves and our lives: mamash.

Now mamash is one of those rich Hebrew words that defy a simple dictionary definition. Its meanings include "literally," the inquisitive "really?", and even the materialistic "tangible," along with a host of others, each nuanced by context and inflection.

No one, certainly not the masses, dared suggest that every soul is actually a part of G‑d!A bit of history: In the late 1790's Rabbi Schneur Zalman took the bold step of publishing chassidic thought, making it available to even the uninitiated and, perhaps even riskier, to the untutored public. This move earned him a fair amount of skeptics and even enemies. Some were angered enough to slander him to the Czar and have him imprisoned, and it was only through a miracle that his life was spared and his teachings expanded. (see The Story of Kislev 19).

Now back to that quote from Job. It seems rather benign; why the emphatic addition of mamash? What does it add and why the need to "improve" on Scripture?

It is with this word that Rabbi Schneur Zalman changed the world.

Prior to the introduction of chassidic thought to the general public, people were content to understand this verse as a vague reference to the similarities of the soul and its Creator. No one, certainly not the masses, dared suggest that every soul is actually a part of G‑d! Neither the simple factory worker nor the successful merchant would dare think that he contained an actual piece of G‑d within him. Perhaps the occasional arrogant scholar might fancy himself a gift from Above, but that was earned, not inborn, value.

Mamash enriches our understanding of the quote, radically changing its interpretation as well as its application. It is "quite literally" – mamash – true that every soul is an actual part of G‑d Himself. G‑d's infinity prevents any notion of diminishment of the Divine and communicates a universal bond between all who share it. And so the world was enlightened.

First, the eradication of the notion that one's accomplishments were the measure of one's essential relationship with G‑d, and the consequential perceived divisions that riddled the community. All souls are part of G‑d Himself, and as He is indivisible, so are the investments of Himself in His chosen creation. Neither scholarship nor failure can reconstitute the essence of identity.

And then came the challenge; with mamash come expectations. Gone is the resignation to mediocrity. In its place is opportunity and demand. You will balance your checkbook, lose weight, mend your relationships; yes, you mamash will. All the issues for which we hid behind the pretext of personal mediocrity must now be confronted and resolved.

Gone is the resignation to mediocrity. In its place is opportunity and demandIf we are only like the Divine and not mamash Divine, we can't be expected to fight city hall. Under the old rules "the old college try" was all that was expected, success was relative and reserved for the lucky and the gifted. Rabbi Schneur Zalman erased that convenient, comfortable, self-justifying defense, daring and empowering us to make the necessary changes both within ourselves and the world at large.

So here's a tip; if your objective in life is simply to achieve the title of "righteous," then do not study Tanya. Keep a ledger, and as long as you have one more check in the win column you're okay.

Tanya places responsibility and opportunity before us. Abandon competitive titles; express your genuine identity by subsuming yourself in something higher than just your self, in your piece of G‑d—mamash.

As we near the finish line and we broadcast this call, we have witnessed change.We have defeated communism, eradicated ancient biological and social maladies and alerted the world to its inherent power for good. Together we will change the world, heralding the arrival of Moshiach, speedily in our days ... mamash.