Reading the Tanya, ch.2 [Sefer shel Beinonim]

talmudfanreadstanyaContinuing in my project to read and write about my reading the Tanya/Likkutei Amarim, here are some thoughts of mine on the second chapter.

The first thing that is quite different from the first chapter to this chapter is that he only quotes the Talmud twice, citing Niddah 31a and Ketubot 111b.  As to this latter reference, it is a bit strange that Rabbi Shneur Zalman writes

מאמר רז”ל על פסוק ולדבקה בו שכל הדבק בת”ח מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו נדבק בשכינה ממש

since the quote in Ketubot is

אמר ליה רבי מצאתי להן תקנה מן התורה ‘ואתם הדבקים בה’ אלהיכם חיים כולכם היום’  (דברים ד

וכי אפשר לדבוקי בשכינה? והכתיב  כי ה’ אלהיך אש אוכלה(דברים ד).

אלא כל המשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם והעושה פרקמטיא לתלמידי חכמים והמהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו מדבק בשכינה כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר ‘לאהבה את ה’ אלהיך ולדבקה בו’ (דברים ל).

וכי אפשר לאדם לידבק בשכינה?

אלא כל המשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם והעושה פרקמטיא לתלמידי חכמים והמהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו מדבק בשכינה

This last line offers three ways to connect with the Divine Presence: marrying one’s daughter off to a Sage, one who engages in business with Sages, and one who benefits Sages from one’s things.  However, Rabbi Shneur Zalman only mentions the first of these!  However, I came across the following which may illuminate this issue:

…the Sifre asks the same question as the Talmud and replies: “It means necessarily to cleave to the scholars and their disciples, and He will credit you as if you ascended to heaven [i.e., as if you cleave to Him]” (Sifre, Ekev 13). Talmudic and midrashic references to Torah scholars (talmidei hakhamim) are often interpreted in hasidic literature…as referring to zaddikim*

That definitely helps….

It’s an interesting move to discuss כל נפש כלולה מנפש רוח ונשמה מכל מקום, although he doesn’t say whence he gets this divided notion of the soul.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman ends off with a piece, referencing the Zohar and Zohar Hadash about sanctifying oneself at the time of sex.  Yes, this definitely sounds directed at men and not particularly women, although it could be.  He actually says it’s the most important thing: שהעיקר תלוי שיקדש עצמו בשעת תשמיש דווקא, and then contrasts that with בני עמי הארץ who do not.  Unfortunately, in sticking with just what he’s writing, it’s somewhat unclear as to exactly what he is trying to explore, since he refers elsewhere (not only in the aforementioned works, but also in works of Rabbi Isaac Luria).  Nevertheless, it is interesting that this end piece gives us some insight into a foundational concept of Lubavitcher Hassidus – that they should strive to sanctify themselves during sex, although it’s left unspecified (or, perhaps, left up to the reader to read the Zohar and Zohar Hadash).


* Rabbi Norman Lamm, The Religious Thought of Hasidim: Text and Commentary (New York City: Yeshiva University Press, 1999), 306, n. 225.

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