A Crash Course on the Tanya - Part 2
Ella Waisman // CTeen Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City
The Tanya also talks about the different levels of souls: the lowest level is a rasha who does not do all the Mitzvot and is not in tune with G-d. In describing the concept of this Yetezer Hara, or this evil inclination, the Tanya says, “Anything which has not surrendered its ego to G-d and perceives itself a separate entity to itself will not receive its life energy from G-d’s holiness.”
Think of the last time you aced a test. You think your success is a result of your hard work. But the truth is that you succeeded because of G-d, because G-d gifted you with that knowledge to succeed. Instead of giving credit to yourself, surrender your ego, because you are not a separate, superior entity from G-d.
The second soul level is a beinoni. A beinoni is someone whose speech, thoughts, and actions all align with G-d, except that the person faces a huge struggle to do that. A beinoni’s animal soul is dormant, not completely awake like a rasha’s, but also not completely transformed into a G-dly soul. According to the Tanya, “the beinoni is torn by an uncontrollable mixture of emotions in his heart, and only manages to maintain consistency in his religious behavior by using his mind to overrule the desires of his heart.”
Even if we do not have complete control over our deep core, which does not always experience full reverence of G-d, we do have control over our thoughts, speech, and actions. For example, a beinoni never gossips or is jealous, acts kindly towards others, and follows the mitzvot to the best of our ability. Unlike an animal, who does not have the ability to act contrary to their desires, we as humans, do have that ability. The Tanya encourages us to strive towards this level.
The third, highest soul level is a tzadik, who, unlike the beioni, does not have any struggles with connecting to G-d. At that third level, the tzadik has completely transformed their animal soul into a G-dly one. They have no doubt about how to serve G-d in a world where G-d is not seen with five senses. In differentiating between a tzadik and a beinoni, the Tanya says, “While neither of them actually transgress, the beinoni retains the impulse to do so, whereas the tzadik has annihilated that urge completely.” The tzadik does not even think of indulging in materialistic pleasures, and is completely devoid of the impulse to evil. We are not expected to reach this level because we live in a physical world, so the difficulty to choose G-d is understandable. However, we should try to at least become a beinoni. For example, the Tanya says that for Jews that have kept kosher for a long time are probably not tempted to eat non kosher food. This does not mean their yetzer hara has been eliminated, just that they have trained their thoughts, speech, and action to be align with G-d. If we all really put our mind to it, we could do the same.