Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"A Waiting Controversy"

(Painting by Ben Yehuda)

Yitz commenting on A Story About The Baal Shem Tov [Part II]:

There is a waiting controversy whenever anyone learns the first perek of the Tanya and reads that non-Jews have only an animal soul and no Godly soul. I want to illustrate this a little bit. We say about ourselves, as God said about us, that we are the Chosen people. We are meant to be a light to illuminate the nations.

Now let's look at something else: Children are born without a Godly soul. All they have is an animal soul. From birth until the age of mitzwoth (13 for boys, 12 for girls) they have only an animal soul. Parents are said to be their 'good inclination' a term which is analogous with 'Godly soul.' What's the point? The Godly soul is there to inform and educate and ultimately raise up the animal soul to the level of Godliness. The Godly soul is already perfect and complete in its goodness, hence the term 'Godly soul.'

Our job in this world involves mainly the animal soul. We are given a Godly soul to understand and enlighten ourselves to transcend the partially evil animal soul and bring out its inner goodness or light. The potential and the test of existence all dwell in the animal soul.

So, what do we mean when we say the non-Jews have only an animal soul? In my small and insignificant opinion, we are explaining the idea of the Jewish people being the light unto the nations in a practical parent-child relationship. It isn't that the non-Jews have no Godly soul. We are the Godly soul of the non-Jews. That is our role in this world. If our actions aren't good, then we aren't playing our role as the Godly soul which sets the standard by which the animal soul learns to act. If we don't do our job, then the responsibility of the actions of the non-Jewish nations falls squarely upon us. Just as the responsibility for a child's actions fall upon that child's parents.

To strengthen that point, it is only through the parental actions of our forefathers that we 'earned' a Godly soul. Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov earned for themselves their Godly souls and performed such otherworldly actions that they earned an inheritance of Godly souls for their children who follow after them.


At January 29, 2008 at 12:37:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone asked Lubavitcher Rebbe, how can it be, that goyim have no G-dly soul, since everything is sustained by G-d? He answered that it is of course wrong to say that goym have no G-dlinnes in them. They too have a G-dly spark (that can be called G-dly soul for them). The Tania is just speaking in comparison to Yidden.

At January 29, 2008 at 12:54:00 PM EST, Blogger Mottel said...

The world was created in a certain order and hierarchy. Sentient beings, i.e. Humans, are the epitome of creation. Any Human, man or woman, Jew or non-Jew, is at the hight of creation. This being said, human beings are still bound within the realm of nature, we are subject to the whims of our inner animal instinct -the nefesh habahemis.
Since we are intelligent beings, however, we are able to rise above our bestial nature. We know that through the spreading of kindness, through helping each other out, we can make this world a better place.

All of this applies to Jew and Gentile alike.

A Jew, however, as Yitz pointed out, is light unto the nations. We have the ability to transcend the earthly realm and touch the divine , why? Because in essence we are part of the divine -we are beyond creation, yet found within creation. (Thus the words of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya in general are not meant to be read as a degradation of the Gentile, but at most a unique trait of the Yidden.)

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said once, all of this in not chauvinism (that was the exact word he used). We are not the elite meant to rule the untermentschen -G-d forbid. We have a special job that in fact obligates us to serve the world. That is, with privilege comes greater responsibility and demands -613 as opposed to 7 commandments.

As well, a Non-Jew, as mentioned previously, can also reach transcendence, via the seven Noahide laws.

At January 29, 2008 at 2:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ramchal writes that non-Jews have their own type of G-dly soul, even though it is not the same as the Nefesh Elokis of a Jew.

But what does this really mean?

The "soul" is the capacity for serving Hashem and attaining hasagas Elokus. So all this really means is that the Jew is endowed with the capacity to serve G-d through the Torah and mitzvos, while the non-Jew is endowed to serve G-d through the Noachide laws -- and both can attain the hasagos that are shayach to them.

B'emes, eveything has a "soul" and everything is animated by the Shekhinah, directly or indirectly. "Ve-yimaleh haaretz de'ah es Hashem ke-mayim al mechasim."

At January 29, 2008 at 9:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very mysterious distinction. We observe many Jews who seem to be quite "unspiritual" and unenlightened, many non-Jews who seem to be highly spiritual and wise, with every possible combination in the middle.

I think the key to this mystery is the Zohar's teaching, which is explain by Rav Chaim Vital, that one internalizes the various higher levels of the soul through Torah and avodah and acts of chesed, etc. Then these divine potentials become part of who "we" are in the here and now.

Same thing for gentiles. If they are pursuing materialistic goals, the nefesh is what animates them and their approach to life. If they are morally and spiritually advanced, they receive higher capacities.

Thus, one who observes the Noachide laws (i.e., who is a moral person in the most basic sense) no longer receives his or her vitality from the Gimel Klippos Temeyos but from the next higher level; and on and on.

As Tanna Devei Eliyahu states in the name of Hashem: "I will put My spirit on anyone, Jew or gentile, man or woman, slave or handmaid -- it all depends upon one's deeds!"

At January 30, 2008 at 12:16:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The primary difficulty with all of this, is that the Tanya doesn't just say that Jews and Non-Jews have different types of souls with different jobs, but instead says:

“…however gentile souls are of an entirely different nature. “they are derived from the three klipot, they are entirely EVIL and have NO GOOD to them, whatsoever.”

Obviously reading things like this are very hurtful to me as someone who loves HaShem, the Jewish people, and who is shomer sheva mitzvot bnei noach.

At January 30, 2008 at 3:10:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Noach,

I think a a close reading of the Tanya is in order here. I should mention that I am not a chabadnik, only a guy trying to find truth.

First of all, a close reading of chapter 1 of the Tanya does not say that gentiles do not have two souls. The Baal HaTanya simply states that Jews have two souls, never affirming or denying that gentiles may or may not have two souls as well. As has been mentioned in one of the comments, the Ramchal (who predates the Baal HaTanya) makes it clear that all humans have a G-dly soul and an animal soul. It is essential to us being human. However, the Ramchal does point out that the G-dly souls of Jews and gentiles differ, and that this is one of the reasons why different commandments apply to the two groups.

Towards the end of Tanya chapter 1, the Baal HaTanya does mention the soul of a gentile. But note that he is not saying it is THE soul of the gentile. It is in the context of a discussion of the animal soul, which in the case of all humans comes from the klippot, the husks or shells that shade out G-dliness.

It is in speaking of the animal soul that he now claims that the animal soul of the Jew is from the klippat noga, while the animal soul of the gentile is from the three lower klippot.

Also note the line on the gentile soul, the line you seem to quoting from in your comment. It does NOT say that "they are entirely EVIL and have NO GOOD to them, whatsoever." In fact the word EVIL isn't mentioned at all, and I am suprised it would be in any translation (free or otherwise). It does say that the soul in question is without total good. In other words, "total good", however the Baal HaTanya, defines it, is not in the animal soul of a gentile. Again, he says nothing about the gentiles G-dly soul.

Also note that the Baal HaTanya begins his description of the G-dly soul of the Jew in chapter 2 by saying "The second soul in/of Israel (i.e. the Jews) is a piece of G-d above, literally". I happened to find this part fascinating, because if he had established in chapter one that only Jews had two souls, one G-dly and one animal, there would be no need to begin chapter two with any mention of Israel. He could just have mentioned the second soul, period, because it would have have been obvious that only Jews had two souls. The fact that the Baal HaTanya stresses that it is "the second soul of Israel" suggests to me that the Baal HaTanya, like the Ramchal, holds that all humans have two souls and that he wishes to stress that he is talking about the second Jewish one, not the second gentile one.

Finally, Ben Noach, note that while the translation in "Lessons in Tanya" states that "The second, uniquely Jewish, soul is truly “a part of G-d above,”" the original Hebrew never uses the term "uniquely Jewish".

May your neshama shine brightly!

At January 30, 2008 at 3:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except that the Alter Rebbe says, "The second, *uniquely* Jewish, soul is truly “a part of G-d above,”

This clearly implies that non-jews don't partake of this second soul whatsoever, which was also made abundantly clear in chapter 1 when he informed us that non-jews act only with selfish propensities and are totally incabable of altruism.

At January 30, 2008 at 4:40:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Noach,

While it is long, please re-read my previous comment.

As I pointed out in my previous comment, the the term "uniquely Jewish" is not in the original Hebrew at all. It is part of the "free translation" found in English versions of the Tanya.

As for the Baal HaTanya's description of the gentile animal soul, the text does seem to suggest that it is incapable of true altruism. But read carefully again. He is speaking of the ANIMAL soul in the gentile. It is that soul which is incapable of true altruism.

But as I pointed out, the Ramchal makes it clear that the non-Jew also has a G-dly soul, which would struggle with their animal soul, giving the rise of free will, just like the dynamic between the Jew's G-dly and animal soul, of which the Baal HaTanya gives such a beautiful description.

Also, as it seems that you may have access to "Lessons in Tanya", not the commentary at the bottom of chapter 1:

"It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah. Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow."

So while he gives a description of the animal soul of non-Jews, his description is general, and there are individuals whose animal souls stem from the higher level of klippa, the klippat noga.

There is nothing in the text that suggests a sincere gentile searching for Hashem could not reach this level. Please see Rabbi Sears' comment above for more on this idea.

At January 30, 2008 at 2:13:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tiferes Yisrael (Rabbi Yisrael Lifshutz, 19th century) also takes a more inclusive stance, counting those who benefit humanity among the "chasidei umos ha-olam," righteous gentiles, apparently even if they are not so perfect in heeding all of the Noachide laws. (For example, I don't think Sir Francis Drake, whom he lauds for introducing the potato to Europe, thus saving millions of people, was such a paragon of virtue in other areas of his life.)

As in almost all things in Judaism, there is a range of views about this issue. As Rav Moshe Cordovero states again and again, citing numerous referents, God cares for all of His creatures, all have worth in His sight, and we are supposed to emulate that divine love. Rav Chaim Vital says the same thing. Ditto Rav Pinchos Eliyahu of Vilna, author of Sefer HaBris. Ditto Rav Kook, and countless others. If all non-Jews were "monsters," how could be be encouraged to love and respect them?

As for "true altruism" -- how many of us ever do anything that is purely unselfish? The saintly Chofetz Chaim berated himself that he was not free from the least taint of self-concern -- how much more does this reproach apply to the rest of us?

At January 30, 2008 at 5:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since there has been some intelligent interest in this subject, I'd like to offer a couple of comments.

The relevant chapters in Tanya are: 1, 2, 6, 9, 19.

"G-dly, good, completely bad" have different meanings in different settings.

To discuss them in terms of Tanya, we need to understand them in terms that the Ba'al haTanya meant. Otherwise, we're looking at an engineering plan, through the eyes of a doctor; at a microscope, through the eyes of an engineer.

The Tanya says that the Jew alone inherited what's labeled a G-dly soul. Let's call it a psyche. It's an inheritance by virtue of the selflessness for G-dliness of the forefathers (ch. 18).

Chapters 9 and 19 describe what it wants. That's based on the verse: The candle of G-d is the soul of man.

In a nutshell: A candle has a unique nature. All other creations yearn toward the source of their life. Tree roots grow down searching for water, herbivorous animals look for grassy plains.

Ostensibly, the candle-flame is fueled from the melting wax. But it flickers upward, away from the wax. Why?

Because, it wants to return to its source.

What would occur were it to achieve it's goal?

It would extinguish on the wick, for one. And, were it to reach its origin, the sun, heaven, it would become sucked into oblivion, as a drop into the ocean. As a breath into the air.

What does this psyche want?

It wants to cleave to G-d.

It wants to contemplate on G-dliness -- kabalistic/chasidic study, as it were, learn His Torah, do G-d's will through the commandments (ch. 9).

What does it get from it, what does it want to gain?

Nothing. Nothing. This is its nature. Its essential nature is above nature (ch. 19).

A son wants to free his father and mother from imprisonment, though he loses his life doing so.

Will he enjoy the fruits of his efforts? No. He gives his life, to free them. He's gone.

This is something someone with this psyche will do for G-dliness (ch. 10, end).

Of course, some Jews might not be exemplifying the above. The reason, naturally, is because there is a second nature. Call it the animal soul, nephesh behomis, if you will. (ch. 1, end).

The concept of good or lack thereof amongst non-Jews is not an observation of whether they do good things or not. That's ridiculous.

"Good" and "bad" in this sense are reflections of whether they are doing things to nullify themselves to G-d, His will, His Torah.

Or for their own good feeling.

What does it mean when the chairman of an international humanitarian group rides in a limousine, and demands respect for his position?

The question was raised: According to this discussion, can someone not born Jewish serve G-d selflessly?

I'll tell you, with a light note.

I once heard someone comment that an intelligent question can never be: How do I join a Hell's Angel motorcycle club.

Why? Because if you're into that sport, into that group's head-space, lifestyle, what have you -- you'll already know it. You won't need to ask, you're there.

I hope and pray we should all arrive at doing what we need to do with complete selflessness.

And when we do, we'll know it.

Blessings, Rabbi Jacobs

At January 31, 2008 at 12:58:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked a rav once what the difference is between saying that non-Jews have no G-dly soul, when you can say the same thing about a Jewish child until 12/13 years of age. He answered that in a non-Jew, there simply is no G-dly soul, whereas in a Jewish child, there is, but it is not yet completely connected. Rather, a Jewish child's G-dly soul is makif, and as the years go on, it becomes more and more pnimi.

At January 31, 2008 at 6:31:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The question is how one then reconciles the way Chabad seems to interpret Tanya with other sources such as Derech Hashem, that say that non-Jews have G-dly souls, albeit of a different type than Jews.

If one simply reads the text of the Tanya directly, it never says that non-Jews don't have G-dly souls, as far as I can tell. Even chapter 18, which R'Jacobs points out give the explanation for why the souls of the Jew is altruistic, never says that having a G-dly soul is unique to Jews. Indeed, chapter 18 of Tanya gives the same explanation on why the G-dly soul is different in Jews that the Ramchal gives.

It would therefore seem that if one reads the text directly, there is no conflict between what the Tanya and others write.

However, if one does read it within the mesora of Chabad, which seems to strongly hold that there is no G-dly soul whatsoever in non-Jews, then there is an issue that needs to be resolved.

Of course as R'Sears rightly points out, there are a range of views on this issue, and thus the Tanya (as interpreted by Chabad) need not be the final word on this.

To invoke a phrase we often use when talking about halacha: those who wish to hold that non-Jews also have G-dly souls (though different from those of Jews) certainly have what to rely on!

At January 31, 2008 at 9:30:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading all of the sources mentioned in the replies to this thread, I wanted to throw out a couple that appear to have a different opinion concerning the potential of the Non-Jewish soul.

Rambam - Hilkhot Shemittah 13:13

Not only the Tribe of Levi, but every single individual from among the world's inhabitants (kol ba'ei olam), whose spirit moves him and whose knowledge gives him understanding to set himself apart in order to stand before the L-rd, to serve Him, to worship Him, and to know Him, who walks upright *as God created him to do*, and releases himself from the yoke of the many foolish considerations which trouble people - such an individual is as consecrated as the Holy of Holies, and his portion and inheritance shall be in the Lord forever and ever.

In Ramban's commentary on Breishit 6:9, on the verse: Noah walked with G-d, he writes:

He says that he was walking with HKBH fearing Him only. He was not tempted to follow the different astrologers and magicians. Even more, he was not tempted to follow after idolatry. He would not listen to them at all *for he was always attached to G-d only*.

At February 1, 2008 at 3:11:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as the exchange is intelligent, I won't mind contributing a bit.

To clarify things.

Things are extremely clear in Tanya.

The spiritual bank from which the body of Jews is drawn is recorded in the end of chapter one. From whence their spiritual side is drawn is described in chapter two.

From whence the spiritual side of non-Jews is drawn is recorded at the end of chapter one, the end of chapter six adds that their physicality comes, too, from that bank.

A not uncommon reaction to these writings is: Are there not elitist elements involved here?

This, from Jews. Theological Christians, not.

Whatever, you must understand the following:

In terms of the Tanya, the inheritance that Jews have -- because of their forebears' self sacrifice for Torah & Mitzvos (ch.18)- translates into an innate potential to nullify themselves to G-d's will & wisdom as it reveals itself through Torah and Mitzvohs (chps. 9, 18, 19).

In Tanya terms: Good and bad, completely good, completely bad must be understood in the sense that the book itself says.

Otherwise, you misunderstand completely.

"The good deeds of the nations is sin (ch. 1)"

Why? How can helping someone be a sin?

The sin is not the act. The sin is the result. When the result is: huffiness, self-importance, ego.

We mentioned this earlier: The chairman of a world humanitarian organization sitting in a padded chair, with a driver and limousine, receiving media covered awards and honors.

"Good" in the terms of Tanya, means the potential for nullification to doing G-d's will, through Torah and Mitzvohs, and serving Him.

That translates into what's called bitul. That translates into: No selfishness, no ego.

The G-dly soul, psyche, call it what you will, is that. It wants to completely cleave to G-d and do his Torah and Mitzvohs ONLY (ch. 9).

And, you don't sit in a padded chair, and you don't look for awards.

You're happy with your slice of bread, glass of water, and to say a chapter of Psalms.

It's the antithesis of elitist. It's the remedy.

I'll be happy to comment, (as long as the conversation remains intelligent.)

Shabot Shalom.

Rabbi Jacobs

At February 1, 2008 at 11:31:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Jacobs, does this mean that I should discontinue my habit of anonymously sending a cash donation in support of the local shul every two weeks in order to avoid being sinful?

When the Tanya says that the charity and good deeds done by Non-Jews is sin, how can this be? Sin for a Non-Jew only occurs when he/she transgresses one of the 7 Laws of Noah. Giving charity and performing good deeds are not among the things we are commanded in the 7 Laws. Thus, any charity and good deeds performed by a Non-Jew is actually evidence of the innate potential and desire of the Non-Jew to naturally observe additional mitzvohs in order to serve the will of Hashem in this world. This phenomenon is akin to the Non-Jewish individuals who are held up in your tradition as examples of "Honoring Ones Father and Mother" as we Non-Jews were not specifically given this commandment either.

"You're happy with your slice of bread, glass of water, and to say a chapter of Psalms."

What of the millions of misguided Non-Jewish monks, nuns, and so forth of various religions all over the world who are just as happy with the exact same thing?

"A not uncommon reaction to these writings is: Are there not elitist elements involved here?"

Yes, it is unnecessarily elitist and this teaching from the Tanya itself paradoxially fills the nose with the fragrance of a bouquet of huffiness, self-importance, and ego. How do you expect to truly fulfill your G-d given role as Ohr L'goyim if you truly have such a low opinion of our bodies and souls?

At February 1, 2008 at 12:26:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Noach:

If you are bothered by Tanya, just simply don't associate youself with groups that promote it.

As menioned by others on this blog, there are a range of opinions on this issue within Torah true Judaism. While some hold Tanya to be the final word on the subject, others, perhaps the majority of Torah observant Jews, do not. If you feel the need to support Jewish organizations, there are many others to choose from.

At February 3, 2008 at 6:51:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Noach. That is correct. The quotes at the end of chapters one and six of Tanya refer to a state prior to accepting the seven mitzvohs. At that time, just as anyone who receives upon himself the yoke of heaven, this individual is elevated.

The other source often quoted is Rambam Hilchos Melachim 8:11, “Anyone who accepts upon himself the seven Noahide laws and is careful to fulfill them is of the chosidei umos ha’olam. And he has a portion in the world to come. Specifically, when he accepts them and performs them because the Al-mighty commanded to do them in the Torah and announced through Moshe rabeinu that gentiles were always commanded to keep them. However, if he keeps them because of his own rationale, he is not a ger toshav, nor chosidei umos ha’olam, nor amongst their wise men.”

There is a large amount of additional information on this subject. Time doesn't allow me to do the research at this moment.

The quote about charity in an earlier post is from Baba Basra 10:b, not from the Tanya. The Tanya explains it, and my explanation did as well. My explanation referred to Jews as well as non-Jews.


Rabbi Jacobs

At February 4, 2008 at 4:13:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An important point is found in Likutei Biorim L'Kuntros HaHitpoolos 47:4; eplanation in Likutei Sichos vol. 6, pg. 55, note 7.

General note: The discussion surrounds "sod iboor," rather than "seder birurim" (for ex. see end of chap. 14 of Tanya).



At January 1, 2013 at 1:58:00 PM EST, Blogger rav Michael Elmaleh said...

Remember the Tanya quotes the ghemara on vechessed lumim chatat, it is no a chiddush of the tanya.

At January 1, 2013 at 2:14:00 PM EST, Blogger rav Michael Elmaleh said...

Please listen to the explanation of the issue on a mp3 class in lessonsintanya.com

Btw this issue has always bothered me, until I heard the above mp3 class.

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