Monday, April 27, 2009

Question & Answer With Rabbi Shais Taub - Tanya: Where To Begin?

A Simple Jew asks:

While Shaar HaYichud v'Emuna, Iggeres HaTeshuva, Iggeres HaKodesh, and Kuntres Acharon are also included in Tanya, would you suggest that a person first focus his attention and continually review the first 53 chapters in Likkutei Amarim before learning these other sections?

The Rebbe suggested that beginners not start with Likkutei Amarim and that, depending on their background, they should either begin with Shaar HaYichud or Iggeres HaTeshuvah. He said that people with a “chakira” background should start with Shaar HaYichud and people with a “mussar” background should start with Iggeres HaTeshuva.

My question is what if someone really has no background in either?

Now it’s true that the Alter Rebbe had first intended that Shaar HaYichud be printed before Likkutei Amarim and then changed it at the last minute for reasons known to him alone. So in a way you can say that Shaar HaYichud is like a preface or preamble to Likkutei Amarim. Indeed, I have tried learning with people in that way, but I find that for the uninitiated, they lose interest in the cosmology of Shaar HaYichud. They want to hear stuff right away that is talking about their lives. When it comes to learning Tanya with people who are not used to learning Torah or who are not yet observant, then really, you have to be ready to switch things up and find what works for that person or that class. I have done all sorts of things, for instance, spending a year on Likkutei Amarim chapters 26-33 in depth. Those chapters appeal to everyone because they are about staying positive.

Anyway, what I would advise to you (since you are asking) is that really everyone should be learning Chitas anyways. The Rebbe made clear over and over that these shiurim were equally applicable to all. So, you should be going through Tanya once a year anyway. That five or ten minutes a day will familiarize you with all of Tanya. Then, for a shiur b’iyyun, I would say try to get a clear picture in your head as to what is going on in Likkutei Amarim. Get the overall approach and view. Learn a perek at a time and then sit and think about what the main point of that perek was and why it is where it is. (The map will help you keep track of that.) As you go, try to be aware of your own development as you implement the instructions. Watch how Likkutei Amarim naturally progresses as a series of private audiences. Notice how the Alter Rebbe is dealing with your questions as they come up.


At April 28, 2009 at 2:57:00 AM EDT, Blogger Anarchist Chossid said...

One time, a chossid came to Alter Rebbe and told him about his hardships. Alter Rebbe answered: “You say much about what you require. You don’t say anything about what is required of you.” The chossid fainted.

“What you require” may refer to gashmius or to ruchniyus.


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