The Shaar of the Tanya-The purpose of the Sefer and its various names

The Daf Hashaar

The Shaar of the Tanya is a Torah in it of itself from which one should begin his lessons of study.[1]

Free Translation of the Shaar:

“Sefer Likkutei Amarim. Part one is called Sefer Shel Beinonim. It was compiled from books and from holy teachers who have since passed on. It is based upon the verse, “For this matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, for you to perform.” This Sefer explains clearly how to accomplish this, in both a lengthy and a concise manner, with the help of G-d.”

A breakdown of the Shaar

1.      The name of the Sefer:[2]

  • General name of all five volumes: The general name of all five volumes of Tanya is “Likkutei Amarim,” which means a compilation of teachings. [This title is used in many other areas of teachings of Admur, including Igeres Hateshuvah, Siddur Im Dach, and in Igeres Hakodesh.[3]]
    • A deeper look: With this title of “Likkutei”, the Alter Rebbe emphasizes that he has written nothing novel in his Sefer which is of his own discovery, but that rather it is a collection of teachings from his predecessors.[4] Likewise, the term “Emorim” which means “sayings”, in contrast to Torah’s which can refer to written teachings, emphasizes that the Sefer is a collection of oral directives, as indeed the Sefer Tanya is a collection of directives that the Alter Rebbe told people in Yechidus.[5]
  • Name of first volume: The name of the first volume of the Sefer Likkutei Emorim is “Sefer Shel Beinonim,” which means the book of Intermediates. [The name of the second volume is “Shaar Hayichud Vihaemuna.” The original print of Tanya in 1797 only included these two volumes. To note, that in majority of places in Likkutei Torah, the entire book of Tanya with all its volumes is referred to by this title of Sefer Shel Beinonim, or just Beinonim, and not just the first volume.[6]]
    • A deeper look: Tradition has it that the Alter Rebbe originally wrote a previous book called “Sefer Shel Tzadikim,” a book for the righteous.[7] This book however was too much for the world, and not on the level of the populace to relate to, and it therefore never made it to print, and was consumed in a fire. He thus wrote a new Title, named Sefer Shel Beinonim, which relates to the level of service of G-d that all people can strive to achieve and stand by.[8]
 

The name Tanya:[9]

Interestingly, despite that the Alter Rebbe named the title of his Sefer as “Likkutei Emorim” and “Sefer Shel Beinonim,” it is not popularly known by these names and rather it is referred to as the book of Tanya by the populace. People began referring to this book by the name Tanya already in the times of the Alter Rebbe, and it was referred to by this name prior to the official publication of the Sefer, when it was first printed as individual booklets. In fact, in the second publication of the Sefer in Romania, which was not printed by the Alter Rebbe, it was officially published under the title “Tanya Kadisha.”[10] It is also referred to by this name in many places in Torah Or and Likkutei Torah. The simple explanation behind this name given to it by the populace, is that it follows the opening words of the first chapter “Tanya[11] Besof Perek Gimel Denidah.” The deeper and more mystical explanation behind this word and title “Tanya” is because through the study of this Sefer one can nullify the evil force name “Tanya,” which is an evil spirit which tries to dissuade people from studying the inner dimensions of the Torah.[12]

Other names:

1.      Kuntreisim [Known by this name prior to publication]

 

2.      The source of its teachings:

  • The information written in the Sefer Tanya was compiled from other holy books [i.e. the Maharal of Prague and the Shelah Hakadosh[13]] and from saintly teachers who have already passed away [i.e. the Baal Shem Tov and Maggid of Mezritch].

3.      The scriptural verse that the Sefer is founded on:

  • The teachings in this Sefer are found on, and expound on, the verse[14], “Ki Karov Eilecha Hadavar Meod Beficha Ubilivavecha La’asoso/For this matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” The Sefer explains the meaning of this verse and how it can, and is meant to, be fulfilled as explained next.

 

4.      The purpose of the Sefer:

  • Help one to easily become the perfect Jew who loves and fears God and does not sin: The purpose of this Sefer is to clearly explain how the above verse can be fulfilled, and how it is exceedingly easy to serve G-d with one’s mouth, heart [i.e. one’s thought[15], and with the emotions of love and fear[16]], and action [fulfilling all negative and positive commands].
    • A deeper look-What are we trying to achieve? The purpose of this Sefer which the Alter Rebbe authored is to show a Jew how it is easily attainable for him to become completely God-fearing in avoidance of all sin and fulfillment of all positive commands in both thought, speech, and action, while at the same time being emotionally devoted to God, through love and fear which is in the heart. This is the level of a Beinoni. This book teaches us not only how to become the perfect Jew, and reach the epitome of expectations that God has of us, but furthermore, it will show us how it is very easily able to be done. In this book we will learn exercises in how to arouse love and fear of God, receive consultation in how to control our thoughts, and receive motivation to be meticulous in performing the mitzvah’s.
    • A deeper look-How is it so easily achievable? On the onset, it seems that this book is trying to accomplish the impossible. Not only is it extremely difficult to be a perfect Jew and never sin, but it is even more difficult to control one’s emotions of loving and fearing God. Indeed, this is the entire novelty of the Alter Rebbe to show the Jew various paths in achieving this goal in an easy manner. The gist of it is as follows: The sages teach us that love of God is the root of all positive commands and fear of God is the root of all negative commands. This means to say that the fulfillment of all of one’s Torah and mitzvah’s should be the result of emotional motivations of love and fear of God. Because one is in love with God he will passionately desire to fulfill all of his commands, and because one has a vivid fear of God’s presence, he will therefore abstain from sinning. In this Sefer the Alter Rebbe will teach us how to attain these feelings of love and fear, and how this will then make our devotion to God and to his commands be very easy.
  • How we will achieve this: This Sefer will explain how one can easily serve G-d in both a lengthy and a concise manner. This will all be done with the help of G-d, as once one begins the right path of service of G-d Hashem will then assist him to reach the finish line.
    • A deeper look-The long and short route to achieve the above:[17] There are two different ways in understanding the above statement. The first is that the Alter Rebbe will explain to us two different methods in how to achieve the Beinoni status, one being a long method and the second being a short method. The long method is through arousing love and fear of God through deep intellectual contemplation, which is harder to achieve. The second is through arousing the natural love that one has in his heart for God, which is easy to achieve. However, the Rebbe[18] suggests a second approach based on the Talmud[19] that the intent is to teach us a single method of how to achieve the level of a Beinoni, and this itself a long and short aspect. It is long from the perspective that it is difficult to achieve at first, as it refers to the first method brought above of intellectually aroused love and fear. However, once one he has achieved this then his service of God becomes very easy.

_______________________________________________

[1] Sefer Hasichos 5700 p. 114 in name of the Rebbe Rashab, in name of his father the Rebbe Maharash

[2] See Tanya Mevueres pp. 4 and 466

[3] Tanya Mevueres p. 466

[4] Shiurim Besefer Hatnya Daf Hashaar

[5] Likkutei Dibburim 1 p. 70

[6] See Tanya Mevueres p. 5 footnote 9

[7] See Sefer Hasichos 5722, Parshas Mikeitz; Kisvei Rav Beichovsky p. 128; Reshimos of Rebbe; Tanya Mevueres footnote 1

[8] As the Alter Rebbe writes in chapter 14 “A Beinoni is the attribute of every man, and is what every person should strive for.”

[9] See Beis Rebbe p. 106; Tanya Mevueres p. 18

[10] Also in the printing in Zalokvoy in 1799 it was named “Likkutei Emorim which is called Tanya Kadisha”

[11] See Beis Rebbe ibid that the main Girsa in Nida 30a is “Derasha Rebbe Simlaiy” and not “Tanya,” and nonetheless the Alter Rebbe chose this rare Girsa of Tanya.

[12] Beis Rebbe ibid in name of Tzemach Tzedek

Regarding this Kelipa called Tanya: See Kisvei Arizal on Pirush on the Idra of Zohar Parshas Nasso; Or Haganuz 2:19; Sefer Sur Meira Viasei Tov in name of Vayakhel Moshe

[13] Tradition of Chassidim Harishonim, not recorded in teachings of Rabbeim; See Igros Kodesh 17:92; Sefer Hasichos 5730 Parshas Savo, 5740 Shavuos; Tanya Mevueres p. 6

[14] Nitzavim 30:14

[15] Hearos Tzemach Tzedek in name of Shelah; Rebbe Rashab and Rebbe Rayatz in Mamarim; Tanya Mevueres p. 7 footnote 13

[16] See Tanya Chapter 17; Zohar, brought in Hakdama

[17] See Lessons in Tanya; Tanya Mevueres p. 8

[18] Likkutei Sichos 34 p. 173

[19] Eiruvin 53b

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