Nazarene Space


Understanding Tanya

Likutei Amarim Chapter 1

(Part 2)


James Scott Trimm




Finally the Tanya comes to the conclusion of Chapter 1 saying:


The explanation [of the questions raised above] is to be found in the light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote in Sha'ar ha-Kedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 50, ch. 2) that in every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, are two souls, as it is written, "The neshamot (souls) which I have made," [alluding to] two souls. There is one soul which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra, and which is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body, as is written, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." From it stem all the evil characteristics deriving from the four evil elements which are contained in it. These are: anger and pride, which emanate from the element of Fire, the nature of which is to rise upwards; the appetite for pleasures— from the element of Water, for water makes to grow all kinds of enjoyment; frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk from the element of Air; and sloth and melancholy— from the element of Earth. From this soul stem also the good characteristics which are to be found in the innate nature of all Israel, such as mercy and benevolence. For in the case of Israel, this soul of the kelipah is derived from kelipat nogah, which also contains good, as it originates in the esoteric "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever, as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done from selfish motives. 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 own self-glorification, and so on.

(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 1)


Likewise the Essenes taught:

            Now, this God created man to rule the world, and appointed for
            him two spirits after whose direction he was to walk until the
            final Inquisition. They are the spirits of truth and falsehood.

            The origin of truth lies in the Fountain of Light, and that
            of falsehood in the Wellspring of Darkness. All who
            practice righteousness are under the domination of the
            Prince of Lights, and walk in ways of light; whereas
            all who practice perversity are under the domination of
            the Angel of Darkness, however, even those who practice
            righteousness are made liable to error. All their sin and
            their iniquities, all their guilt and their deeds of transgression
            are the result of his domination; and this, by God's
            inscrutable design, will continue until the time appointed
            by Him. Moreover, all men's afflictions and all their
            moments of tribulation are due to this being's
            malevolent sway. All of the spirits that attend upon him
            are bent on causing the sons of light to stumble. Howbeit,
            the God of Israel and the Angel of His truth are always there
            to help the sons of light. It is God that created these
            spirits of light and darkness and made them the basis of
            every act, the [instigators] of every deed and the direction
            and the directors of every thought. The one He loves for to
            all eternity, and is ever pleased with its deeds; but any
            association with the other He abhors, and He hates all its
            ways to the end of time.

            This is the way those spirits operate in the world. The
            enlightenment of man's heart, the making straight before
            him all the ways of righteousness and truth, the implanting
            in his heart of fear for the judgments of God, of a spirit
            of humility, of patience, of abundant compassion,
            of perpetual goodness, of insight, of perception, of that
            sense of the Divine Power that is based at once on an
            apprehension of God's works and a reliance on His
            plenteous mercy, of a spirit of knowledge informing
            every plan of action, of a zeal for righteous government,
            of a hallowed mind in a controlled nature,
            of abounding love for all who follow the truth,
            of self-respecting purity which abhors all the taint of filth,
            of a modesty of behaviour coupled with a general
            prudence and an ability to hide within oneself the secrets
            of what one knows – these are the things that come to men
            in this world through communion with the spirit of truth.
            And the guerdon of all that walk in its ways is health
            and abundant well-being, with long life and fruition of
            seed along with eternal blessings and everlasting joy in
            the life everlasting, and a crown of glory and a robe of
            honor, amid light perpetual.

            But to the spirit of falsehood belong greed, remissness
            in right doing, wickedness and falsehood, pride and
            presumption, ruthless deception and guile, abundant
            insolence, shortness of temper and profusion of folly,
            arrogant passion, abominable acts in a spirit of lewdness,
            filthy ways in the thralldom of unchastity, a blasphemous
            tongue, blindness of eyes, dullness of ears, stiffness
            of neck and hardness of heart, to the end that a man
            walks entirely in ways of darkness and of evil cunning.
            The guerdon of all who walk in such ways is multitude
            of afflictions at the hands of all the angels of destruction,
            everlasting perdition through the angry wrath of an
            avenging God, eternal horror and perpetual reproach,
            the disgrace of final annihilation in the Fire, darkness
            throughout the vicissitudes of life in every generation,
            doleful sorrow, bitter misfortune and darkling ruin-ending
            in extinction without remnant of survival.

            It is to these things that all men are born, and it is to
            these that all the host of them are heirs throughout
            their generations. It is in these ways that men
            needs must walk and it is in these two divisions,
            according as a man inherits something of each, that
            all human acts are divided throughout all the ages of
            eternity. For God has appointed these two things to
            obtain in equal measure until the final age.

            Between the two categories He has set an eternal enmity.
            Deeds of falsehood are an abomination to Truth, while
            all the ways of Truth are an abomination
            to perversity; and there is a constant jealous rivalry
            between their two regimes, for they do not march in
            accord. Howbeit, God in His inscrutable wisdom has
            appointed a term for existence of perversity, and when
            the time of Inquisition comes, He will destroy it for ever.
            Then truth will emerge triumphant for the world,
            albeit now until the time of the final judgment it go
            sullying itself in the ways of wickedness owing to
            the domination of perversity. Then, too, God will
            purge all the acts of man in the crucible of His Truth,
            and refine for Himself all the fabric of man, destroying
            every spirit of perversity from within his flesh and
            cleansing him by the holy spirit from all the effects
            of wickedness. Like waters of purification He will
            sprinkle upon the spirit of truth, to cleanse him of all
            the abominations of falsehood and of all pollution through
            the spirit of filth; to the end that, being made upright,
            men may have understanding of transcendental
            knowledge and of the lore of the sons of heaven,
            and that, being made blameless in their ways, they
            may be endowed with inner vision. For them has God
            chosen to be the partners of His eternal covenant,
            and theirs shall be all mortal glory. falsehood shall
            be no more, and all works of deceit shall be put to shame.

            Thus far, the spirits of truth and falsehood have been
            struggling in the heart of man. Men have walked both
            in wisdom and folly. If a man casts his portion
            with the truth, he does righteously and hates perversity;
            if he casts it with falsehood, he does wickedly and
            abominates truth. For God has appointed them in
            equal measure until the final age, until 'He makes all
            things new'. He foreknows the effect of their works in
            every epoch of the world, and He has made men heirs
            to them that they might know good and evil. But [when the
            time] of Inquisition [comes], He will determine the fate
            of every living being in accordance with
            which of the [two spirits he has chosen to follow].
            (Manual of Discipline 3, 17-4, 26)


Likewise the Emissary Paul writes:

            14 For we know that the Torah is of the spirit,
            but I am of the flesh and I am sold to sin.
            22 For I rejoice in the Torah of Eloah in the inward son of man.
            (Romans 7:14, 22 HRV)

            Because of this, we are not weary, for even if our
            outer man is corrupted, yet that which [is] inside
            is renewed day by day.
            (2Cor. 4:16 HRV)

            for the flesh desires a thing which is opposed to
            the Spirit and the Spirit desires a thing that is
            opposed to the flesh and the two of these are
            opposed to each other, that you do not do the thing
            which you desire.
            (Gal. 5:17 HRV) 


As noted above the Talmud teaches: “If God created the evil inclination, He also created the Torah as its antidote.” (b.Baba Batra 16a)  likewise Paul teaches that the Torah is of the spirit and as such is the antidote for what he calls “the flesh” which clearly corresponds to the evil inclination.


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