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Tanya for Shabbos, 20 Shevat, 5780 - February 15, 2020

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 20 Shevat

19 Shevat, 5780 - February 14, 202021 Shevat, 5780 - February 16, 2020

Chapter Twenty-Six

[In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained how it is "very near to you," i.e., how it is very easy and accessible to every Jew to serve G-d with love and awe. He stated that this can be accomplished either by creating a love and fear of G-d through meditation on G-d's greatness, or by arousing the "hidden love" (which also comprises a fear of G-d) inherent in every Jew.

In the coming chapters, the Alter Rebbe will discuss means of overcoming possible obstacles in the path of one's service to G-d.

In the first instance, he shows how one may overcome the sadness, and dullness of heart, whereby the heart becomes insensitive to feelings of love and fear of G-d].

But this must be made known as a cardinal principle:

[It is with the service of G-d] just as it is with a victory over a physical opponent; for instance, two people who wrestle with each other, each striving to fell the other.

If one of them is lazy and sluggish he will easily be defeated and will fall, even if he be stronger than the other, [since his laziness and sluggishness prevent him from revealing his strength].

Similarly with the conquest of one's evil nature.

[Despite the fact that the good nature is stronger than the evil, for as explained in previous chapters, "Even a little of the light of holiness dispels much darkness of the kelipah," yet here too the previous rule applies; and thus]:

It is impossible to conquer the evil nature with laziness and sluggishness, which stem from sadness and a stone-like dullness of the heart, but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and an open [i.e., responsive] heart that is unblemished by any trace of worry and sadness in the world.

As for the verse, [1] "In every sadness there will be profit," which means that some profit and advantage would be derived from it, the wording "[there will be profit]" implies that, on the contrary, the sadness itself has no virtue, except that some profit will ultimately be derived from it.

This [profit] is the true joy in G-d which follows the true [i.e., justified] sadness over one's sins, with bitterness of soul and a broken heart, which must come at specific, suitable times.

[Hence the "profit" of sadness is the joy that follows it. Why should this sadness lead the worshiper to joy]?

For thereby [through one's sadness] the spirit of impurity and of the sitra achra is broken, and so too the "iron wall" that separates him from his Father in heaven, as the Zohar comments [2] on the verse, [3] "A broken spirit, a broken heart, [You will not despise]."

[The Zohar interprets the verse as follows: "A broken spirit of the sitra achra is accomplished by means of a broken heart ...." Since sadness over one's sins causes the sitra achra to be broken, and the "iron wall" to vanish, it leads one to rejoice - as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say]:

Then the preceding verses will be fulfilled for him: [4] "Make me hear joy and gladness"; .... [5]"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and support me with Your generous spirit."

[This joy is the "profit" of sadness, whereas sadness itself is neither "profitable" nor advantageous].

This is the simple reason [i.e., apart from the deeper, mystical ones] for the practice instituted by the AriZal [Rabbi Isaac Luria] of reciting this Psalm [containing the verses quoted above] after Tikkun Chatzot [the midnight prayer] before [resuming one's Torah] study - in order that one should study with the true joy in G-d, that succeeds the remorse [of Tikkun Chatzot].

Such joy is of a greater quality [than joy which is not preceded by sadness], similar to the distinctive quality of light which follows darkness.

As the Zohar [6] comments on the verse, [7] "And I [King Solomon] saw that wisdom surpasses foolishness as light surpasses darkness." Note there, and this will suffice for him who understands.

[The Zohar asks:

Does it take a Solomon to see this? And it answers that the intention of the verse is that just as darkness contributes to light, for we cannot truly appreciate light unless we have experienced darkness, so too does foolishness contribute to the appreciation of wisdom.

Similarly in our case, one's earlier sadness adds strength to the joy which follows it, and this is the "profit" of sadness. Sadness itself, however, is a hindrance in one's service of G-d].

Furthermore, the verse states explicitly: [8] "Because you did not serve G-d your L-rd with joy...[therefore you will serve your enemies]" - and everyone is familiar with the explanation of the AriZal on this verse. [9]

[The verse reads: "Because you did not serve G-d your L-rd with joy and gladness of heart, from an abundance of everything [good] ...." The simple meaning is: "When you had an abundance of everything you did not serve G-d with joy..." (This meaning is borne out by the context of the following verse: "You will serve your enemies hunger, thirst, and nakedness, and in want of everything.") But the AriZal interprets it thus: "You did not serve G-d with a joy greater than that caused by an abundance of everything ...."

We see from all the above the importance of serving G-d joyfully. Yet, many things in one's life, both physical and spiritual, may cause him sadness. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to propose means of combating this sadness, so that one may always be joyful].



  1. (Back to text) Mishlei 14:23.

  2. (Back to text) See ch. 17.

  3. (Back to text) Tehillim 51:19.

  4. (Back to text) Ibid. 51:10.

  5. (Back to text) Ibid. 51:14.

  6. (Back to text) III, 47b.

  7. (Back to text) Kohelet 2:13.

  8. (Back to text) Devarim 28:47.

  9. (Back to text) Quoted in Shelah, Asarah Maamarot, Maamar 3:4.

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