Tanya Chapter 30: Humbling oneself before all creatures

Chapter 30: Humbling oneself before all creatures

3rd Adar/(LY)16th Adar 1

1. The obligation to feel lower than, and humble himself before, others:
  • Another matter that one is to take to heart in order to accomplish the crushing of his animal soul is what the sages teach us regarding the state of humility that man should have.
  • The sages teach us that every individual is to be humble and lower himself in front of all others. This statement is to be taken literally, and applies even towards the most lowly of individuals, and that one is instructed to feel lonely even in front of them.
2. How to accomplish feeling even lower than a lowlife:
  • Not to judge the challenges of others: It is possible to accomplish the above statement of the sages, by following through with another statement of the sages which instructs a person not to judge his friend until he reaches his place, as it is his place which causes him to sin.
  • Environment and surroundings effects one’s level of righteousness: A person’s environment and surroundings can affect their level of temptation and be the cause of their lowly status. For example, a person who walks in the marketplace all day and sits amongst the storeowners who converse of matters of vanity, and his eyes see all the lustful activities before him, and what his eyes see his heart lusts after, and his inclination is filled with a passion like the fire of a burning furnace. [Hence, it is no surprise that this person sins.] This is in contrast with a person who hardly ever goes into the marketplace and witnesses the lusts that the other person sees daily, and rather sits at home most of the day [in which it is no big deal for him not to sin].
  • Different temperaments affect one’s level of righteousness: Furthermore, it is possible that even a person who does walk in the marketplace all day will not have the same level of challenge as that of another person, as this is dependent on temperament. Different people are born with different temperaments and inclinations, and while one person may have a very hot and lustful temperament, another person may have a very cold and emotionless temperament. Hence, it is possible that a person with this latter type of temperament will not be affected at all when he walks in the marketplace throughout the day.

(LY)17th Adar 1

3. The above arguments cannot be used by a sinner as an excuse for sinning:

  • [The above argument is only to be used by the person who is being judgmental, so he stopped judging the other person. However,] the lowlife sinner has no excuse for his sins and bad behavior, even though he has a hot temperament and spends all of his time with the storeowners for the sake of his business.
  • Fear of G-d allows mind to control heart: As no matter how tough the challenge, he is expected and commanded to overcome it and abstain from succumbing to his passionate inclination that is found within his heart, due to his fear of G-d and due to his natural ability to have his mind rule over his heart, and if he doesn’t then he is called a complete Rasha as he does not have the fear of G-d opposite his eyes.

(LY)18th Adar 1

  • Acknowledging the difficulty of the challenge: Indeed, we must recognize that the above individual has an extremely tough challenge to overcome his inclination which is flaming like a huge fire, in the face of his fear of G-d, and this is considered an actual Nissayon.

4. Asking oneself if he too is serving G-d on the level of the challenge of the lowlife:

  • Every individual according to his level in service of G-d must ask himself and discern as to whether he too is serving G-d on the same level of intense battle and challenge as the individual above.


5. How much effort does one place in his Asei Tov?
  • His battle during prayer: For example, in the realm of doing good, is he pushing himself to the extreme to pray with concentration and pour his heart before G-d with literally all of the strength of the soul to the point that he squeezes out all the energy of his soul? Is he battling with his body and animal soul, which is trying to prevent him from concentrating, in a great and intense battle [to the same level as the lowlife individual who must overcome his passions and lusts]? Is he on each day crushing his animal soul and body like dust before his daily prayers of morning and evening. Is he also waging this battle during the prayer itself to exert himself to the utmost of his soul and body for the sake of concentrating?


4th Adar/(LY)19th Adar 1

  • Any individual who has yet to wage war against his body [and evil inclination] to the above extent in a great and intense battle, has not yet reached the same level of challenge and battle as experienced by the lowlife, who is expected to subjugate and break even an inclination that is similar to a fiery furnace due to his fear of G-d.
  • Concentration in blessings: The same applies regarding Grace after meals [i.e. Birchas Hamazon], and all blessing which are to be said over food and mitzvahs, that they must be said with proper concentration [and hence a person must ask himself does he really exert enough effort in this regard].
  • Concentration in Mitzvot: The same applies regarding the fulfillment of mitzvot’s which must be done altruistically for the sake of heaven [and hence a person must ask himself does he really exert enough effort in this regard].
  • Learning Torah: The same applies regarding the learning of Torah, that one must ask himself if he is truly learning more Torah than he naturally desires according to his nature and instinct. Is he truly learning much more than his norm by facing and overcoming a fierce battle with his body? A person who pushes himself to learn only slightly more than his norm is considered to have been successful in winning only a small battle, which is of no comparison to a fierce battle against a fiery inclination.
  • Comparing the lack of effort in positive commands to the transgressions of the lowlife: Regarding all the above battles, one is like the lowlife. The low life who faces an inclination that is as fiery as a furnace, is nonetheless considered a complete Rasha if he does not overcome it. Accordingly, one must ask himself if he is any better than this Rasha, if he too fails in his battles in the above-mentioned matters which are as intense as the fiery furnace of the lowlife, as what difference does it make if one is failing to battle his evil inclination in matters of transgressing prohibitions, as does the lowlife, or in lack of proper fulfillment of positive commands, as does he, as after all they are all the commands of the one and only G-d.
  • Charity: The same applies regarding all other mitzvahs, especially regarding monetary related commands such as the giving of charity and the like.

(LY)20th Adar 1

6. Lack of effort in Sur Meira-Iskafya in Unpopular Mitzvos
  • Even regarding matters of transgression [i.e. Sur Meira], a person who contemplates can find in his soul that he too is not perfect in this in its entirety, as there are matters of evil that he too performs, regarding those lusts that require an extreme battle with his inclination, and sometimes even when the battle is not as strong. Such as for example:
  • Stopping in middle of a luscious and gossipy story: For example, does one control himself and stop in middle of a luscious mundane conversation, or gossipy story about another, as even a slight disparaging remark is forbidden even if truthful, and even if done for the sake of exonerating oneself from any wrongdoing. This can be learned from what Rebbe Shimon told his father Rabbeinu Hakadosh that it is not he who wrote the invalid Get but rather Yehuda the tailor wrote it, to which Rabbeinu Hakadosh replied that he should stop speaking gossip.
  • There are many other such matters that are abundantly common for people to transgress, [due to their pettiness and lightness in one’s eyes, which does not view it as sinful].
  • Sanctifying once over the permitted: Likewise, does one control himself to not indulge in the permitted more than necessary which is a Torah obligation, as Scripture states that you shall sanctify yourself, and even if this command is only rabbinical, it is known that rabbinical matters are to be viewed even more severe than Biblical.
  • All the above are examples of sins that a person does not view seriously as a sin, and thereby becomes used to transgressing, and perhaps even views them as if they are permitted being that he has transgressed them so often. [However, in truth, they are sinful.]

(LY)21st Adar 1

7. A Torah Scholars sin and lack of proper fulfillment of Mitzvos is viewed much worse than the transgressions of an Am Haretz:

  • [Another aspect that one must enter the calculation which makes him even worse than the lowlife, is that] in truth, if he is a Torah scholar and holds himself up as a G-d-fearing Jew who desires closeness to G-d, then his level of responsibility for sinning is much greater than that of the lowlife.
  • A much greater guilt and offense: His guilt is doubly resounding versus that of the lowlife in the fact that he does not successfully overcome his evil inclination to the same level of intensity of battle as experienced by the lowlife who is distanced from G-d and His Torah.
  • A lowlife is not held as responsible to the same extent: Low lives are not held to the same extent of guilt for the fact that they are not successful in overcoming their fiery furnace of inclination due to their fear of G-d who watches and comprehends all of their activities, as is the level of guilt extended to a Torah scholar who is close to G-d and His Torah and divine service nonetheless sins.
  • The guilt of Acher: This follows the teaching of the sages who stated regarding Acher [Alisha Ben Avuyah who was a great scholar and became a heretic] that since he knew My honor therefore his guilt is much greater.
  • Even the intentional sin of the ignoramus is viewed as unintentional: Likewise, it is due to this reason that the sages state that even the intentional sins performed by the ignoramuses are considered to be unintentional [as their level of guilt is not as high].

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