Tanya’s Heresy IV
Reader: Dear Moshe Ben-Chaim,
Regarding your ban of the Sefer Tanya, and your proclamation of the “heresy” upon the Holy Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Baal HaTanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, I would like to suggest that you also include the Holy Tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and all his students, the RaMa”K and His commentators, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and his Rebbe, Rabbi Eliyahu, the Gaon of Vilna etc, as heretics as well, since many similar statements are to be found throughout their works and teachings.
For example, here is a free translation of a paragraph of Shaar 1, Chapter 5 of Sefer Nefesh HaChayim from Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin:
“Rather, the [explanation of the] matter is that a man who is complete as is befitting him, his main [essence] is embedded above in the supernal source of his soul. It then passes by way of many hundreds of thousands of worlds until its other end enters the body of man below. This is [the meaning of the verse], “Ki Chelek HaShem Amo, Yaakov Chevel Nachalato - For the L-rds portion is his people; Yaakov is the lot of his inheritance”. [That is,] his main essence which is bound and embedded above is a portion of Havayah, literally, so to speak. It then chains down like a rope until it comes into the body of man (See later in chapter 17). All of his actions reach up to arouse his supernal source. This is like the matter of a rope, that if one was to shake its lower end it will arouse and shake also its upper end.”
The Nefesh HaChaim then continues and brings the identical explanation as the Baal HaTanya (which is a direct continuation of the statement you take issue with) regarding the verse, “Vayipach B’Apav Nishmat Chayim - And he blew into his nostrils a soul of life”:
“This is what it means when it states, “And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life”, i.e. the soul that the life of all the upper worlds and all the lower worlds are dependent upon that soul, and exist through it.”
What soul is this that he speaks of? If you turn to the beginning of the chapter he states very clearly in the first paragraph: “...He, Blessed is He, is the soul of everything!”
Mesora: Here you project your own spin onto words that do not convey what you wish. These rabbis would not contradict what is true, meaning, Maimonides’s second of his 13 Principles:
“Principle II. The Unity of God
Meaning to say to accept that this is the quintessential idea of Oneness. It is not like the oneness of a pair (i.e. pair of shoes - one group) or and not one like a species. And not like man that has many individuals nor like a body that divides into many different parts until no end (everything keeps on being divisible). Rather God is one and there is no other oneness like His. This is the second principle and is taught in what it says "Hear Israel, Hashem your God, Hashem is one.”
You see; the real injustice here is your claim that all the rabbis you quote deny Maimonides’s principle.
Reader: The Vilna Gaon states in his commentary on Hechalot, Hechalah Tinyana, Hechal 1:
“..So too in man, the Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah which are included in the general category of Neshamah are the three upper [levels] of the Ruach of a person, however, the Neshamah itself which is the three upper [levels] themselves do not enter the body of a person at all, and they are Godliness. This is the mystery of ‘Ish HaElokim - The Man of God’.”
Mesora: I am surprised you feel this supports the view that pieces of God abide in man. You seem to be working with an agenda, and twist what you wish to meet it.
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, in Sefer Pardes Rimonim, Shaar 32, Chapter 1, uses the same verse from Job in the same manner as the Baal HaTanya in describing the soul of Man:
“After having explained in the previous Shaar that [the soul of] man is a ‘Chelek Eloka MiMa’al - a part of God from Above’, therefore, if a person is pure and righteous in his actions and is bound with bonds of love to the roots of Holiness with his soul which goes up through all the worlds and all the levels, as was explained in the previous Shaar, so therefore, when he acts in a way of righteousness and uprightness etc...”
Mesora: But Maimonides explains in his 13 Principles, which you defend later, that God is not subject to division. Therefore, you do an injustice with your interpretation here of “portion” translating it to mean, “part”. It truthfully means “inheritance” as is clear from the original source in Job:
“A treaty have I made with my eye; for what shall I gaze at a virgin? And what portion shall I have with God above, and an inheritance of God on high?”
Job declared he never gazed lustfully, for in doing so, one forfeits his “portion with God”. But Tanya distorts the word “portion”, not as the end of the verse clarifies as “inheritance”, but wrongly, ascribing “parts” to God. This verse in Job simply means that Job admits he will forfeit his “portion” (inheritance) with God. Through sin, Job says he will lose this world and the next. Job is not describing God, that He has parts, God forbid. Job is describing his inheritance.
Reader: Rabbi Mordechai Ben Yaakov of Prague, in Sefer Asis Rimonim V’Plach HaRimon (which is a commentary on Pardes Rimonim of the RaMaK), Shaar 32 (of Biur Darkey HaKavanah), Chapter 1 states as follows:
“Know that since man is a ‘Chelek Eloka MiMa’al - a part of God from Above’ and is bound with the roots of Holiness, through the chaining down of his soul from level to level, then, this above mentioned chain is like a ladder through which the awakening of his deeds bring about the unification of the upper Sefirot through him etc.”
Note how the RaMaK and Rabbi Mordechai Ben Yaakov of Prague are both explaining the same matter that the Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Chaim Velozhin and the Baal HaTanya are explaining, and indeed they all understand this verse in the same manner as the Baal HaTanya. According to your understanding of the verse from Job (31:2) all of the aforementioned Torah Sages must therefore also be heretics.
Mesora: So far all you suggest these rabbis state is your own interpretation. Also, name throwing doesn’t make something a “truth”. Your position contradicts God’s words to Moses, and to Isaiah. All the rabbi’s quotes in the world cannot make your position true. Ironically, these quoted rabbis would agree.
Reader: You write:
“The Torah is quite clear, reputation plays no role when determining truth, we are not to fear man, even one who claims he is the Messiah, and even Moses. Certainly Rebbe Zalman may be opposed.”
I find it quite interesting that while “standing up” for the principles of our faith, you seem to neglect and forget several of the primary principles, specifically those that deal with our Prophets of God, and even more specifically with our Prophet Moshe, whom Maimonides calls ”the father of the Prophets” in the thirteen principles of faith. However, since you are so determined at understanding the truth regardless of the reputation of the speaker, let me give you some words of truth which I pray you will heed.
Your articles are a testimony of your sheer ignorance and utter arrogance. When these two qualities are found together they create a deadly and destructive combination. I therefore urge you from the bottom of my heart to remove and destroy all traces of these false and slanderous articles against these great Sages and Leaders of Judaism, so they may not be held against your soul in its time of judgment. The damage that has already been done cannot be revoked, but future damage to your “part of God from Above” may be avoided.
Mesora: It is not unusual that those with no rational defense will resort to personal attacks, and you continue this behavior. As I mentioned already in other responses, I have yet to hear an explanation as to how “part” of God may abide in man. Your response bereft of any “theory” reinforces the fact that no explanation for “God possessing parts” exists. Your view denies Torah verses, Maimonides’ Principles, and reason.
Evidently, you feel your words alone are insufficient to convince me of your opinion. So what is your thought: that a personal attack will finally convert me to your thinking? Chazal referred to the “issues”, not attacking the individual. Learn from them.
But your approach to quote many sources without attempting to deal with the “position” itself is meaningless. No number of sources can alter what is reasonable or God’s words: “For man cannot know Me while alive.” (Exod. 33:21) From here we learn that we may know nothing about God. So you words and quotes that man’s soul is akin to God’s in some way, violates this pasuk (verse).
“To what shall your equate Me that I should be similar, says God?” (Isaiah, 40:25) From here we learn that absolutely no equation exists between God and anything we know, including our soul. Hence, the statement that a portion of God is within man violates this prohibition not to equate God to anything. Additionally, it violates the true idea that God is indivisible, as “division” is also something, which cannot be predicated of God, based on Isaiah, and clearly stated by Maimonides.
Contend with these verses and absolute truths before quoting others without understanding.
I will end offering you one final thought: what do you do when Ramban argues with Maimonides in philosophy, where there is no psak, no ruling? If these men ere equally wise, and you have no others commenting, surely either one of them is wrong, or they are both wrong, as opposite opinions in philosophy cannot be correct. Your approach to “follow the leader” does not work here. Ultimately you must do as these two great minds displayed: “think for yourself”. For why didn’t Ramban follow Maimonides? Why didn’t Ramban follow Rashi? The fact that they did not “follow the leader” must teach you that man is obligated to think for himself. The author of Chovas Halavavos (Duties of the Heart) goes into length on this in his introduction. I suggest you read it.
Your knee-jerk reaction is symptomatic of a devotion to your views, bereft of any understanding. You blindly defend that which you cannot explain. You are mortified that someone will follow another view, which denounces your own, and claims your rebbes are wrong. But no man is always correct. You react based on emotion, and not thought. For I see in your words no explanation disproving my position, and validating your view. Had you an argument clearly disproving my position, you would certainly use that line of defense. But as you do not, it is clear you have no argument other than quoting other rabbis. But these rabbis cannot and do not argue on the quotes from Exodus, Isaiah, and Maimonides’ 13 Principles. Those truths are clear to anyone.
Instead of your uncompromising devotion to your projections, pledge a new, uncompromising devotion to truth. Accept the fact that perhaps your view may be wrong. Does your honesty allow that of you? I have retracted when proven wrong. Any honest person must do so.
Instead of throwing names and quotes around that cannot claim heresy and deny Torah and Prophets, think, and then realize what is false, and what must be true.