Tanya Chapter 30: Humbling oneself before all creatures

Chapter 30: Humbling oneself before all creatures

1.       The obligation to feel lower than, and humble himself before, others:

  • The sages teach us that every individual is to be humble and lower himself in front of all others. This statement is to be taken literally, and applies even towards the most lowly of individuals, and that one is instructed to feel lonely even in front of them.

2.       How to accomplish feeling even lower than a lowlife:

  • Not to judge the challenges of others: It is possible to accomplish the above statement of the sages, by following through with another statement of the sages which instructs a person not to judge his friend until he reaches his place.
  • Environment and surroundings effects one’s level of righteousness: A person’s environment and surroundings can affect their level of temptation and be the cause of their lowly status. For example, a person who sits in the marketplace all day and sees all the lustful activities before him, succumbs to lusting it like the fire of a burning furnace. This contrasts with a person who hardly ever goes into the marketplace and witnesses the lusts that the other person sees daily.
  • Different temperaments affect one’s level of righteousness: In addition to the above, different people are born with different temperaments and inclinations, and while one person may have a very hot and lustful temperament, another person may have a very cold and emotionless temperament. Hence, it is possible that a person with this latter type of temperament will not be affected at all when he walks in the marketplace throughout the day.


3.       The above arguments cannot be used by a sinner as an excuse for sinning:

  • [The above argument is only to be used by the person who is being judgmental, so he stopped judging the other person. However,] the lowlife sinner has no excuse for his sins and bad behavior, as no matter how tough the challenge, he is expected and commanded to overcome it due to his fear of G-d and due to his natural ability to have his mind rule over his heart, and if he doesn’t then he is called a Rasha.
  • Acknowledging the difficulty of the challenge: Indeed, we must recognize that the above individual has an extremely tough challenge to overcome his inclination which is flaming like a huge fire, in the face of his fear of G-d, and this is considered an actual Nissayon.

4.       Asking oneself if he too is serving G-d on the level of the challenge of the lowlife:

  • Every individual according to his level in service of G-d must ask himself and discern as to whether he is serving G-d to the same level as the individual above.

5.       How much effort does one place in his Asei Tov?

  • For example, in the realm of doing good, is he pushing himself to the extreme to pray with concentration and poor his heart before G-d with all the strength of the soul? Is he battling with his animal soul which is trying to prevent his concentration to the same level as the previous individual? Is he crushing his animal like dust before his daily prayers of morning and night.
  • Any individual who has yet to wage war against his body and evil inclination to the above extent, has not reached the same level of challenge as experienced by the lowlife, who was expected to subjugate even an inclination that is similar to a fiery furnace due to his fear of G-d.
  • Blessings: The same applies regarding Grace after meals, and all blessing which are to be said over food and mitzvah’s, that they must be done with proper concentration [and hence a person must ask himself does he really exert enough effort in this regard].
  • Mitzvot: The same applies regarding the fulfillment of mitzvot’s which must be done altruistically for the sake of heaven [and hence a person must ask himself does he really exert enough effort in this regard].
  • Learning Torah: The same applies regarding the learning of Torah, that one must ask himself if he is truly learning more Torah than he naturally desires according to his nature and instinct. Is he truly learning much more than his norm by facing and overcoming a fierce battle with his body? A person who pushes himself to learn only a little more than his norm is considered to overcoming a small battle which is no comparison to a battle against a fiery inclination.
  • Comparing the lack of effort in positive commands to the transgressions of the lowlife: Regarding all the above battles, one is like the lowlife. The lowlife who faces an inclination that is as fiery as a furnace, is nonetheless considered a complete Rasha if he does not overcome it. Accordingly, one must ask himself if he is any better than this Rasha, if he too fails in his battles in the above-mentioned matters which are as intense as the fiery furnace of the lowlife, as what difference is it make if one is failing to battle his evil inclination in matters of transgressing prohibitions, as does the lowlife, or lack of proper fulfillment of positive commands, as does he, as after all they are all the commands of G-d.
  • Charity: The same applies regarding all other mitzvah’s, especially regarding monetary related commands such as the giving of charity and the like.
  1. Lack of effort in Sur Meira-Iskafya in Unpopular Mitzvos
  • Even regarding matters of transgression, a personal contemplates can find that he is not perfect in this entity are matters of evil that he too performs, in cases that it requires an extreme battle with his inclination and sometimes even when the battle is not as strong. Such as for example:
  • Stopping in middle of a luscious and gossipy story: For example, does one control himself and stop in middle of a luscious and gossipy story about another, as even a slight disparaging remark is forbidden even if truthful, and even if done for the sake of exonerating oneself from any wrongdoing.
  • Sanctifying once over the permitted: Likewise, does one control himself to not indulge in the permitted more than necessary which is a Torah obligation, and even if rabbinical is to be viewed as even more severe than Biblical.
  • All the above are examples of sins that a person becomes used to transgressing, and views them as if they are permitted being that he has transgressed them so often.
  1. A Torah Scholars sin and lack of proper fulfillment of meats about is viewed much worse than an Am Haretz:
  • Another aspect that one must enter the calculation which makes him even worse than the lowlife, is that if he is a Torah scholar and holds himself up as a G-d-fearing Jew who desires closeness to G-d, then his level of responsibility of sin is much greater than the lowlife. He is viewed much worse than the lowlife in the fact that he does not successfully overcome his evil inclination to the same level of battle as experienced by the lowlife distance from G-d and His Torah.
  • The lowlife is not held with so much guilt for the fact that they are not successful in overcoming their fiery furnace of inclination due to their fear of G-d, as is the Torah scholar who is close to G-d.

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