Tiyul in Tanya Part 8: Defining a Beinoni…
Getting back to our little ongoing discussion on Tanya, it appears that we will finally close out the first chapter this week. Also please note that I have added a new category, Tiyul in Tanya(found at the bottom) that will allow easy access to all of these posts.
Furthermore, [at what stage can a person be considered a Benoni if] when a man commits sins he is deemed completely wicked (but when he repents afterward he is deemed completely righteous)?
Here is our first key that a “Tzadik Gamur”(completely righteous person) is not a person who has never ever sinned, as the Arizal states in Shaar Ruah HaKodesh drush 1, “There is no righteous person who only does good and does not sin, not even one.” He goes on to explain that not even Moshe Rabbeinu or David HaMelekh were without sin.
Even he who violates a minor prohibition of the Rabbis is called wicked, as it is stated in Yevamot,ch. 2, and in Niddah, ch. I. Moreover, even he who has the opportunity to forewarn another against sinning and does not do so is called wicked (ch. 6,Shevuot). All the more so he who neglects any positive law which he is able to fulfil, for instance, whoever is able to study Torah and does not, regarding whom our Sages have quoted, “Because he hath despised the word of the Lord… [that soul] shall be utterly cut off…,” It is thus plain that such a person is called wicked, more than he who violates a prohibition of the Rabbis. If this is so, we must conclude that the Intermediate man(Benoni) is not guilty even of the sin of neglecting to study the Torah. Hence Rabbah could have mistaken himself for a Benoni.
And as for the general saying that one whose deeds and misdeeds are equally balanced is called Benoni, while he whose virtues outweigh his sins is called a Tzaddik, this is only the figurative use of the term in regard to reward and punishment, because he is judged according to the majority [of his acts] and he is deemed “righteous” in his verdict, since he is acquitted in law. But concerning the true definition and quality of the distinct levels and ranks, “Righteous” and “Intermediate” men, our Sages have remarked that the Righteous are motivated [solely] by their good nature, as it is written, “And my heart is a void within me,” that is, void of an evil nature, because he [David] had slain it through fasting. But whoever has not attained this degree, even though his virtues exceed his sins, cannot at all be reckoned to have ascended to the rank of the Righteous (tzaddik). This is why our Sages have declared in the Midrash, “The Almighty saw that the righteous were few, so He planted them in every generation,…” [for,] as it is written, “The tzaddik is the foundation of the world.”
I must admit that I have some difficulty understanding the last bit of this. The Arizal from Shaar Ruah HaKodesh doesn’t understand it this way. He understands that David HaMelekh rectified his soul… but that he was completely without a Yetzer Hara, that would seem to be impossible for a Jew, considering the pieces of the Eitz Haim that the Baal HaTanya is yet to quote in which every Jew’s soul comes from the Klipah Noga and thus is an eternal mix of Good and Evil. Furthermore the Gemarra clearly says, “The greater the Tzadik the greater the Yetzer Hara”(Sukkot 52a).
My attempt to rectify this seeming Stira(self-contradiction) is this. In Rav Salant’s Iggrot HaMussar and Likutei Moharanan 72 it is brought that there are two forms of Yetzer HaRa. The first is entirely physical. This is the battle that takes place between a man’s base physical desires and his mind/soul as well as the various negative character traits one is born with. The second is a spiritual force that is solely external to man who convinces him to act corruptly through careful persuasion and trickery. The former, the purely “natural” yetzer HaRa one can kill. Rav Haim Vital references this in the first two tikkunim of Shaar Ruah HaKodesh(that one can through proper kavvanot, fasting and the donning of sack, the real stuff not burlap, kill one’s yetzer and be called Kadosh). The Second form the spritual Yetzer Hara will be with us forever. A person would have to be very honest with himself to know whether he has fully killed his Yetzer, and thus is only now dealing with forces external to himself.