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Tanya for Sunday, 28 Shevat, 5780 - February 23, 2020

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 28 Shevat

27 Shevat, 5780 - February 22, 202029 Shevat, 5780 - February 24, 2020

Chapter Twenty-Nine

[In chapter 26 the Alter Rebbe stated that both depression and dullness of heart produce a state of sluggishness which prevents a person from overcoming the evil inclination of the animal soul.

He therefore outlined in chapters 26-28 methods of overcoming depression arising from various causes.

In this chapter the Alter Rebbe will discuss means of dealing with "dullness of heart" (timtum halev), after describing this state more clearly].

Those whose souls are of the level of Beinonim must seek means of contending with yet another difficulty.

Occasionally, and even frequently, they experience a dullness of the heart, as though it had turned to stone, and, try as they might, they cannot open their heart in prayer, which is [by definition] the [1] "service of the heart."

[Chassidut explains that prayer is the "service of the heart" in a two-fold sense:

  1. It takes place in the heart, for in prayer one strives to extend his intellectual apprehension of G-dliness into the realm of emotions experienced in the heart - the love and fear of G-d;

  2. The object of prayer is the heart, for in prayer one tries to transform the nature of his heart - to steer it away from the mundane desires to which it naturally inclines, and to direct it instead towards a yearning for the spiritual and the G-dly.

To accomplish both these objectives of prayer, the heart must of course be open and receptive, and thus timtum halev (dullness of heart) is a major hindrance].

Also, the heaviness in his heart prevents him at times from waging war against the evil impulse, in sanctifying himself in permitted matters.

[As the Alter Rebbe explained in chapter 27, it is the task of the Beinoni to suppress the desires of his heart, e.g., by not eating as soon as he has the urge to do so. This requires a battle with one's evil impulse, which demands that he gratify all of his desires.

When his heart is dull, heavy and insensitive he cannot fight the evil impulse].

In this case, the advice given in the holy Zohar [2] is, as the president of the academy of Gan Eden said: "A wooden beam which does not catch fire should be splintered, and similarly a body into which the light of the soul does not penetrate should be crushed," [and thereby the body becomes receptive to the soul's light, as the Zohar concludes.

In the analogy quoted from the Zohar we see that the wood is made receptive to the flame, rather than the flame being increased or improved to the point where it overwhelms the wood.

Similarly with the insensitive heart. Timtum halev must be eradicated (by removing its underlying cause, as the Alter Rebbe will soon conclude), rather than overwhelmed (by increasing the intellectual light of contemplation on the greatness of G-d)].

The reference to the "light of the soul" [which, in this case, does not penetrate the body] means that the light of the soul and of the intellect does not illuminate to such an extent as to prevail over the coarseness of the body.

Thus, although he understands and meditates in his mind on the greatness of G-d, yet that which he understands is not apprehended and implanted in his mind to the point where it enables him to prevail over the coarseness of the heart - because of the degree of their [the mind and heart's] coarseness and crassness. [2a]

The cause [of this deficiency] is the arrogance of the kelipah [of the animal soul], which exalts itself above the holiness of the light of the divine soul, so that it obscures and darkens its light.

Therefore, one must crush it and cast it down to the ground, [just as in the previously quoted analogy the beam is splintered so that it will catch fire.

The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to explain how this is accomplished.

He points out that the personality of the Beinoni is his animal soul.

(When a Beinoni says "I," he is referring to his animal soul.) Thus, by crushing his own spirit, he crushes the sitra achra, and thereby enables the light of the soul and intellect to penetrate himself].

This means [that one must crush the sitra achra and cast it to the ground] by setting aside appointed times for humbling oneself and considering himself [3] "despicable and contemptible," as it is written.

Now [4] "A broken heart [leads to] a broken spirit," the "spirit" being the sitra achra which, in the case of Beinonim, is the very man himself.

For in his heart the vital soul which animates the body is in its full strength as it was at birth; hence it is indeed the very man himself.

With regard to the divine soul within him it is said: [5] "The soul which You gave within me is pure."

[The word "WITHIN me" cannot be understood as referring to the body alone: the body cannot speak for itself as a complete man. Thus, it must refer also to the animating soul.

Therefore], the words "[which You gave] within me" imply that the man himself who is saying these words is not identified with the "pure soul"; [i.e., the divine soul is a thing apart, which has been "placed within" this "me" - the body and animal soul] - except in the case of tzaddikim.

With them [the Tzadikim] the contrary is true: the man himself is the "pure soul," i.e, the divine soul, while their body is called "the flesh of man" [i.e., secondary to the man himself - the divine soul].

It was in this sense that Hillel the Elder would say to his disciples when he went to eat that he was going to do a favor to the [6] "lowly and poor creature," meaning his body.

He regarded his body as a foreign thing, and therefore used this expression - that he was doing it a favor by giving it food.

For he himself was nothing other than the divine soul.

It alone animated his body and flesh, inasmuch as, in tzaddikim the evil that was in the vital soul pervading their blood and flesh has been transformed into good and completely absorbed into the holiness of the divine soul, [and thus, the divine soul is the man himself].



  1. (Back to text) Taanit 2a.

  2. (Back to text) III, 168a.

    1. (Back to text) Note the discrepancy:

    The Alter Rebbe began the chapter speaking of "dullness of heart"; here, the problem is identified as the crassness of mind and heart.

    It has accordingly been suggested - in light of the well-known doctrine that mind and heart have a cause-and-effect relationship, so that the emotions ought naturally to respond to any idea that the intellect apprehends - that any emotional insensitivity is indicative of a flaw in one's intellectual apprehension.

    The Rebbe Shlita rejects this suggestion, arguing that if this were the case, the Alter Rebbe would have mentioned the problem of this species of "mental block" at the beginning of the chapter.

    The Rebbe resolves the problem as follows:

    The Alter Rebbe, who addresses himself to the Beinoni, speaks of that type of insensitivity which can trouble the Beinoni. As explained earlier (in chapter 17), the Beinoni is always in control of his mind, and the Alter Rebbe therefore speaks only of "dullness of heart." When the Alter Rebbe mentions "the crassness of mind and heart" he is explaining the citation from the Zohar.

    The statement of the Zohar, while applicable to the Beinoni as well (which is why the Alter Rebbe cites it), does not address the Beinoni exclusively; it obviously deals with the rasha, too, who is not master over his mind; he indeed has a dual problem - the crassness of his mind as well as of his heart.

  3. (Back to text) A play [on words] in Tehillim 15:4.

  4. (Back to text) Cf. Tehillim 51:19.

  5. (Back to text) Morning liturgy; Berachot 60b.

  6. (Back to text) Vayikra Rabbah 34:3.

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