In previous chapters the Alter Rebbe explained that though the Beinoni is unsullied by sin in thought, speech or action, the internal evil of his animal soul remains strong enough to desire evil. That these desires do not find any practical expression is due only to the divine soul’s restraining them, with the aid given it by the Almighty. The Alter Rebbe now continues:

והנה מדת הבינוני היא מדת כל אדם ואחריה כל אדם ימשוך

Now, the rank of Beinoni is one that is attainable by every man; each person should strive after it if he has not yet attained it, and should not think it beyond his reach,

שכל אדם יכול להיות בינוני בכל עת ובכל שעה

for every person can, at any time or hour, be a Beinoni,

כי הבינוני אינו מואס ברע

because a Beinoni does not abhor evil; unlike the tzaddik, he does not find worldly pleasures revolting and loathsome.

שזהו דבר המסור ללב

For this is a matter entrusted to the heart, and as explained earlier, the Beinoni has yet to conquer [the evil in] his heart; consequently, he does not loathe evil.

ולא כל העתים שוות

Also, not all times are alike.

There are times — such as during prayer — when one’s heart is open and receptive; at such time he may evoke a loathing towards evil. At other times the heart may be “blocked” and spiritually insensitive, and one is incapable of loathing evil.

Inasmuch as the Beinoni’s attitude towards evil varies, while his status of Beinoni remains constant, it is understood that loathing evil is not the measure of the Beinoni.

אלא סור מרע ועשה טוב דהיינו בפועל ממש במעשה דבור ומחשבה

Rather, the task of the Beinoni is only to “turn away from evil and do good,” in actual practice — in deed, speech and thought.

שבהם הבחירה והיכולת והרשות נתונה לכל אדם

In these matters, as opposed to “matters of the heart,” every man is given the choice, ability and freedom

לעשות ולדבר ולחשוב גם מה שהוא נגד תאות לבו והפכה ממש

to act, speak and think even that which is contrary to the desire of his heart and diametrically opposed to it.

כי גם בשעה שהלב חומד ומתאוה איזו תאוה גשמיית בהיתר, או באיסור חס ושלום

For even when one’s heart craves and desires a material pleasure, whether permitted, in which case it is only the lustful nature of the desire that is evil (instead of desiring the pleasure “for the sake of heaven,” as he should, he seeks self-gratification), or whether, G‑d forbid, he desires that which is forbidden, and the desire is intrinsically evil; whatever sort of craving it is —

יכול להתגבר ולהסיח דעתו ממנה לגמרי, באמרו ללבו

he can conquer [this desire] and divert his attention from it altogether, by declaring to himself (“saying to his heart”) [as follows]:

אינני רוצה להיות רשע אפילו שעה אחת

“I do not want to be a rasha in succumbing to the blandishments of the animal soul — even for a moment,

כי אינני רוצה להיות מובדל ונפרד חס ושלום מה׳ אחד בשום אופן, כדכתיב: עונותיכם מבדילים וגו׳

because under no circumstances do I want to be parted and severed, heaven forbid, from the One G‑d; as is written,1 “Your iniquities separate. [you from G‑d].”

By reflecting that sin separates one from G‑d, one will conclude that he does not wish to be a rasha, since he will thereby sever his bond with Him. In this way, one can always “turn away form evil” and refrain from sin although his heart craves it.

Similarly, in order for one to “do good” and actively perform the mitzvot, he should declare to himself:

רק אני רוצה לדבקה בו נפשי רוחי ונשמתי, בהתלבשן בשלשה לבושיו יתברך

“I desire, instead, to unite my Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah with G‑d through investing them in ‘His’ three garments,

שהם מעשה דבור ומחשבה בה׳ ותורתו ומצותיו

namely, action, speech and thought dedicated to G‑d, His Torah and His commandments.

These are called “His” (G‑d’s) three garments because they lend expression to His wisdom (Torah) and Will (mitzvot), which are one with G‑d Himself.

מאהבה מסותרת שבלבי לה׳, כמו בלב כללות ישראל שנקראו אוהבי שמך

“This desire to unite with G‑d arises out of the love of G‑d that is (surely) hidden in my heart though I do not feel it, just as [this love is found] in the heart of all Jews, who are called2 ‘lovers of Your (G‑d’s) Name’ by reason of their inherent love of G‑d, although they do not all feel this love consciously.

ואפילו קל שבקלים יכול למסור נפשו על קדושת ה׳, ולא נופל אנכי ממנו בודאי

“For this reason, even a kal shebekalim (a most unworthy Jew) is capable of sacrificing his life for the sanctity of G‑d should he be forced to deny Him, G‑d forbid. Surely I am not inferior to him.

As will be explained in later chapters, the ability of even the lowliest Jew to give up his very life for G‑d stems from every Jew’s innate, hidden love of G‑d, which is activated and aroused whenever he feels that he is being torn away from Him. But if the kal shebekalim does indeed love G‑d so deeply that he will surrender his life for Him, why is he a kal shebekalim? Why does he sin? Why does he not observe the mitzvot?

אלא שנכנס בו רוח שטות, ונדמה לו שבעבירה זו עודנו ביהדותו, ואין נשמתו מובדלת מאלקי ישראל

“It is only that a spirit of folly has overcome (lit., ‘entered’) him, as our Sages say:3 ‘No man sins unless overcome by a spirit of folly’; he imagines that committing this sin will not affect his Jewishness, and that his soul will not be severed thereby from the G‑d of Israel.

In fact, at the moment that a Jew sins he becomes separated from G‑d. Were the kal shebekalim to realize this, he would never sin. The “spirit of folly,” however, deludes him into thinking otherwise.

וגם שוכח אהבתו לה׳ המסותרת בלבו

“Similarly, the kal shebekalim neglects the positive mitzvot, although his natural love of G‑d dictates that he fulfill them, because he also forgets the love of G‑d hidden in his heart. Were he aware of this love, he would seek out mitzvot to perform in order to unite with G‑d.

אבל אני אינני רוצה להיות שוטה כמוהו לכפור האמת

All this applies to the kal shebekalim. “But as for me — one should say to himself — I have no desire to be such a fool as he, to deny the truth!”

For the truth of the matter is that sin does separate man from G‑d, and that one does have a natural love of G‑d that dictates the performance of mitzvot. “These truths,” one must say to himself, “I do not wish to deny.”

Such arguments are effective in a conflict with one’s animal soul over actual thought, speech and action. Using the above-mentioned reasoning one can prevail over his evil inclination at all times (in both “turning from evil” and “doing good”), and thereby attain the rank of the Beinoni.

מה שאין כן בדבר המסור ללב, דהיינו שיהא הרע מאוס ממש בלב ושנאוי

It is different, however, with something entrusted to the heart, i.e., involving one’s feelings, meaning, in our case, that one’s heart actually abhor and despise the evil that he now craves,

בתכלית שנאה, או אפילו שלא בתכלית שנאה

[whether] with absolute hatred as the perfect tzaddik does, or even not quite so utterly, as does the “incomplete tzaddik.”

הנה זה אי אפשר שיהיה באמת לאמיתו אלא על ידי גודל ותוקף האהבה לה׳, בבחינת אהבה בתענוגים להתענג על ה׳

This cannot be attained in complete truth except through that level of intense love of G‑d called “love of delights,” which consists of delighting in G‑dliness,

מעין עולם הבא

akin to [the bliss of] the World to Come, concerning which our Sages say that souls “will bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.” Only such “love of delights” creates a hatred of evil, as explained in the previous chapters.

ועל זה אמרו רז״ל: עולמך תראה בחייך כו׳, ואין כל אדם זוכה לזה כי זה כעין קבול שכר

Concerning one who experiences this [“love of delights”] our Sages said,4 “You shall see a glimmer of your reward in the World to Come in your lifetime.” Not every man is privileged to attain this state, for it is in the nature of a reward received from above, and a reward can only be received, not taken.

וכדכתיב: עבודת מתנה אתן את כהונתכם וגו׳

Thus it is written,5 “I (G‑d) will make your priestly office a rewarding service,”

Service of G‑d with this ecstatically blissful love is designated “priesthood” even though it is not restricted to the Kohanim, members of the priestly family of Aaron. The above-quoted verse tells us that this lofty level of divine service is a gift from G‑d,

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere.6

Consequently, the rank of tzaddik is not within every man’s reach: it is dependent upon one’s loathing of evil, which is in turn contingent on his experiencing that blissful love which is a gift from G‑d. The level of Beinoni, however, is attainable by all.

With this in mind, the Alter Rebbe clarifies the Talmudic passage that describes Job as saying to G‑d: “You have created tzaddikim (righteous men), and You have created resha‘im (wicked men).” In the first chapter of Tanya the Alter Rebbe asked: How can G‑d be said to have “created” righteous and wicked men? If man is wicked, it is his own doing. G‑d ordains only whether one shall be clever or foolish, strong or weak, and the like; he does not declare whether one will be righteous or wicked, for doing so would negate man’s freedom of choice. How, then, could Job say, “You have created men as tzaddikim and resha’im?”

The matter becomes clear, however, in light of the Alter Rebbe’s statement here that the ability to become a tzaddik is a gift from G‑d, not granted to every man. “You have created tzaddikim” thus means that G‑d created souls capable of attaining the rank of tzaddik. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ולכן אמר איוב: בראת צדיקים כו׳

Therefore did Job say, “You created tzaddikim….”

We can now understand Job’s statement as a reference to those souls created with the capacity of attaining the rank of tzaddik. (The meaning of “You have created resha‘im” is explained in ch. 27.)

וכדאיתא בתיקונים, שיש בנשמות ישראל כמה מיני מדרגות ובחינות

As stated in Tikkunei Zohar,7 there are many grades and degrees in Jewish souls:

חסידים, גבורים המתגברים על יצרם, מארי תורה, נביאים כו׳, צדיקים כו׳, עיין שם

Pious men (“chassidim”), strong men (“gibborim”) who gain mastery over their evil inclination, scholars of the Torah, prophets,...tzaddikim, and so forth. Note there.

Accordingly, within the ranks of the souls there are those who are categorized as tzaddikim.8

ובזה יובן כפל לשון השבועה: תהי צדיק ואל תהי רשע

Now we may understand the repetitious wording in the oath administered to every Jew before birth, “Be a tzaddik and be not a rasha” (as quoted from the Talmud in the opening words of Tanya).

דלכאורה תמוה, כי מאחר שמשביעים אותו: תהי צדיק, למה צריכים להשביעו עוד שלא יהיה רשע

At first glance it seems unintelligible: once he is charged to “be a tzaddik,” implying clearly that he not be a rasha, why the need to adjure him again not be a rasha?

אלא משום שאין כל אדם זוכה להיות צדיק, ואין לאדם משפט הבחירה בזה כל כך, להתענג על ה׳ באמת, ושיהיה הרע מאוס ממש באמת

The answer is that inasmuch as not everyone is privileged to become a tzaddik, nor has a person the full advantage of choice in this matter of experiencing true delight in G‑d and of actually and truly abhorring evil,

ולכן משביעים שנית: אל תהי רשע על כל פנים

[each person] is consequently adjured a second time: “You shall, at any rate, not be a rasha.”

Even if a person is not privileged to become a tzaddik he should at the very least not be a rasha, being instead a Beinoni.

שבזה משפט הבחירה והרשות נתונה לכל אדם

With regard to this (not being a rasha) the right of choice and freedom is extended to every man,

למשול ברוח תאותו שבלבו ולכבוש יצרו, שלא יהיה רשע אפילו שעה אחת כל ימיו

to control the spirit of lust in his heart and to conquer his nature, so that he shall not be wicked for even one moment throughout his life.

בין בבחינת סור מרע בין בבחינת ועשה טוב, ואין טוב אלא תורה

[This applies] both in the realm of “turning away from evil” — refraining from transgression, and in that of “doing good” — performing all the positive mitzvot in which he is obligated; and especially the mitzvah of Torah study, which is specifically termed “good”, as our Sages say,9 “There is no ‘good’ other than Torah,”

דהיינו תלמוד תורה שכנגד כולן

meaning the study of Torah, which “balances (i.e., is equal to) all [the other mitzvot combined].”

By reason of the freedom of choice granted him, one is expected to surmount even the difficulty of faithfully observing this most difficult mitzvah of Torah study.

For this reason the oath is administered a second time. Even if one does not have the opportunity to become a tzaddik, it is still possible for him — and therefore expected of him — not to be a rasha.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that everyone should strive to emulate the tzaddik’s service of G‑d, although he may never actually reach the rank of tzaddik. Specifically, one should train oneself to loathe worldly pleasures; and, conversely, he should try to awaken in himself a delight in the love of G‑d, which is accomplished through reflecting deeply on His greatness. Thereby one fulfills the charge, “Be a tzaddik,” to the best of his ability.

אך אף על פי כן צריך לקבוע לו עתים גם כן לשית עצות בנפשו להיות מואס ברע

Nevertheless, though it has been said that not every person can loathe evil and attain the “love of delights” characteristic of a tzaddik — and we are dealing here with a Beinoni — yet one must also set aside specific periods to seek for himself means of abhorring evil —i.e., of loathing worldly pleasures.

כגון בעצת חכמינו ז״ל: אשה חמת מלאה צואה, וכהאי גוונא

For example, [following] the advice of our Sages on overcoming a lust for women, let one reflect on their teaching that “[Even a beautiful] woman is a vessel full of excrement” [i.e., focusing on the undesirous aspects of the human anatomy to uproot the obsession with physical lust], and the like.

וכן כל מיני מטעמים ומעדנים נעשים כך חמת מלא כו׳

So, too, one may learn to despise gluttony by reflecting that all dainties and delicacies similarly become “vessels full of waste.”

וכן כל תענוגי עולם הזה: החכם רואה הנולד מהן, שסופן לרקוב ולהיות רמה ואשפה

Likewise with regard to all the pleasures of this world: the wise man foresees what becomes of them; they ultimately rot and become worms and refuse.

In this way one cultivates an abhorrence of worldly pleasures.

וההפך, להתענג ולשמוח בה׳ על ידי התבוננות בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא כפי יכולתו

Conversely, one should train himself to delight and rejoice in G‑d, by reflecting, to the best of his ability, on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

אף שיודע בנפשו שלא יגיע למדרגה זו באמת לאמיתו, כי אם בדמיונות

He may well know that he will not attain this degree of loathing evil and delighting in G‑dliness with the fullest measure of truth, but will only imagine it.

He will fancy that he truly abhors evil and delights in G‑dliness; why, then, should he exert himself merely to produce a fantasy (especially in the service of G‑d, where sincerity is essential)?

אף על פי כן הוא יעשה את שלו, לקיים את השבועה שמשביעים: תהי צדיק

Nevertheless, he should do his part to uphold the oath administered to him to “Be a tzaddik,”

וה׳ יעשה הטוב בעיניו

And G‑d will do as He sees fit — whether to grant him the level of tzaddik, or not.

ועוד

Furthermore, emulating the tzaddik in loathing evil and delighting in G‑d produces another benefit for the Beinoni:

שההרגל על כל דבר שלטון, ונעשה טבע שני

Habit reigns supreme in all matters; it becomes second nature.

וכשירגיל למאס את הרע, יהיה נמאס קצת באמת

Therefore, when one accustoms himself to loathe evil, he will begin to find it truly loathsome, to some extent.

וכשירגיל לשמח נפשו בה׳ על ידי התבוננות בגדולת ה׳

And when he accustoms himself to rejoice in G‑d through reflecting on His greatness,

הרי באתערותא דלתתא אתערותא דלעילא, וכולי האי ואולי יערה עליו רוח ממרום

then, [on the principle that] “an arousal of man below brings a corresponding arousal above,” perhaps after all this effort of his, “a spirit [Ruach] from above will descend upon him,”

ויזכה לבחינת רוח משרש איזה צדיק שתתעבר בו, לעבוד ה׳ בשמחה אמיתית

and it will be granted him that the [soul-level of] Ruach, originating in the soul of some tzaddik, will be “impregnated” in him, so that he may serve G‑d with joy.

Kabbalah speaks of the soul of a tzaddik “impregnating” another’s soul with its faculties so that the latter may serve G‑d as the tzaddik does. (This concept is somewhat akin to gilgul — transmigration — where a soul is attached to some object or animal, or another human being, except that in the case of gilgul the soul is chained to and dominated by the body to which it attaches, whereas in the case of “impregnation” it is not; the soul of the tzaddik serves merely as an additional spiritual charge for the soul of the recipient.)

In our context, the “impregnation” of the Beinoni’s soul with the (Ruach originating in) the tzaddik’s soul enables the Beinoni to experience a delight in G‑d that he could not attain on his own.

כדכתיב: שמחו צדיקים בה׳

Thus is it written,10 “Rejoice, O tzaddikim, in G‑d.”

This alludes also to the idea that when two types of tzaddikim are joined together (the verse addresses tzaddikim, in the plural form), when the Beinoni — called a “lower-level tzaddik” — is impregnated with the soul of a tzaddik — a “higher-level tzaddik” — they both rejoice in G‑d, for the tzaddik imparts his delight in G‑dliness to the Beinoni.11

ותתקיים בו באמת השבועה שמשביעים: תהי צדיק

In this way, the oath charging him to “be a tzaddik” will be truly fulfilled.