Rav Kaduri’s Position of Tanya: My Current Understanding…
So yes, I’m doing this Tiyul in Tanya series, still haven’t decided to stop that. However, my reading of Tanya and thoughts on it have far surpassed what I have distilled into print here. One of the things that I come back to is Rav Kaduri’s insistence that I not learn it. Something that I have also seen Rav Shalom M. Hedaya ZTz”L say, and have heard in the name of Rav Mordechai Sharabi ZTz”L.
Yet reading the book I find some rather profound wisdom there. So how can these Gedolim have said such a thing? What is more I still believe that they are right. Why? Simply put, I do not think that Tanya would be helpful for the person starting out in serious Kabbalistic study. Quite the opposite in fact, I think it could be quite confusing.
There are several points, as I will point out in chapter 1(when I get there) and going on, where the Baal HaTanya quite drastically departs from what is written in the Eitz Chaim, while claiming and sourcing his views to the Eitz Chaim. There are three possible explanations for that(please read them as well as my view before picking up the stones, or alternately jumping to the comments section to tell me I am wrong):
- He had a defective text
- He had a defective understanding of the text
- He expected his audience to have an intimate familiarity with the text and thus understand the point he was trying to illustrate.
Personally I fall out on the side of number 3. For an indepth analysis of why see my next few installments of Tiyul in Tanya(I know shameless advertising), but for now let me give over in a general way in my own understanding. First by paraphrasing something that Rav Steinsaltz says in his commentary toward the end of chapter 1, the Rav did not mean to give a detailed explanation, but rather to simply set the background for his overall point. See I don’t think that the Rav intended to write a commentary on the Eitz Chaim. However, his continual sourcing of it, and more his giving precise locations as opposed to abstract allusions, tells me that he fully expected his readers to have access to those texts, and quite possibly to be intimately familiar with them. Thus it seems to me that he expected them to be familiar with all the complex details of what he was saying, so he was himself highlighting individual points, in order to make his point.
However, without that intimate familiarity with the Eitz Chaim and in fact the whole of the Kitvei HaAri(something which will not be at an aspiring mekubal’s fingertips for many years) Tanya could be quite confusing, because it could thus seem to the initiate that the Arizal had said something which he never said, and that certain things were not as they are. This could be quite dangerous for the budding mekubal, especially as he moves into the realm of the Kavanot. In fact misinformation could be more harmful than the ignorance that he is already saddled with.
This does not mean that Tanya is not true or that it does not contain truth, rather it contains to a certain extent many relative truths used to build its final point. I know that some may still have problems with that, but that cannot be helped. There is no other way to explain some of the things that the Baal HaTanya says, which diverge from what is written.