It’s Almost Here!
by: Schvach Yid
Good news! Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s third installment of his commentary on Tanya, to be entitled Understanding the Tanya is due to arrive at bookstores and on-line vendors at the close of August.
Tanya is a classic literary derivative of Kabbalah and serves as the philosophic divining rod that directs the lives of its followers along the correct path of behavior, relative to the mitzvot. It is the charter literary work of Chassidus, the philosophy of Chabad Chassidism, whose author, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known also as ‘the Alter Rebbe’, founded Chabad Chassidism, and whose adherents are called Lubavitcher Chassidim.
Rabbi Steinsaltz’s commentaries on Tanya have been published in installments of 13 chapters per volume, with each new volume released for sale at 2 year intervals. Tanya is comprised of 53 chapters. Rabbi Steinsaltz is in his 70’s – not to be selfish, but… And then there are the works of the Alter Rebbe that follow Tanya; the entire compilation is entitled Likutei Amarim (Selected Works). My copy is 634 pages in length (Hebrew/English - half as long in one language). Tanya covers 281/634 pages.
In preparation for this great event, I’ve started to reread Rabbi Steinsaltz’s first two volumes of his commentary on Tanya (actually, Chabad assigns a reading every day over an annual cycle).
Chapter 1: The ‘Nations of the World’ (the ‘G-people’ – you know what I mean), ‘don’t have a godly soul’, and worse, that the souls of the Nations of the World derive from and contain ‘no good whatever’.
I’ve wondered why those two volumes of Rabbi Steinsaltz’s have disappeared from my friendly neighborhood Barnes and Nobel bookstore in my Bible Belt community. I doubt the Jewish book selection in the store sells very well –it’s very small. There’re two siddurim that have collected dust, but the first two volumes of Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Tanya commentaries have disappeared altogether – in other words, they are no longer carried.
Now I think I can end my speculation. How does one explain this gaffe in inter-community relations; after all, we Jews are not the only ones who have at least flipped through this work. Kabbalah hype has gained considerable popularity in the general society in recent decades, and these recent publications are marketed as ‘a Classic Work of Kabbalah’.
One can invoke an excuse, something like ‘Rabbi Shneur Zalman lived in what would become the Pale of Settlement of Russia in the 18th century’ (Tanya is not an ancient work; its author was a 2nd order disciple of the founder of Chasidism, the Baal Shem Tov). Living there, he undoubtedly had to contend with the non-Jewish barbarism of his day and locale that has since become legendary among aficionados of Jew hatred (one of my great grandfathers suffered through a pogrom in
Quite frankly, given his circumstance, I can’t blame him. Please indulge me – a little liberalism for the Alter Rebbe, please; we’re so quick to extend it to just about everyone else! I remind myself that I live in a place where people own guns, and lots of them, yet I don’t know of a single Jewish gun owner (they probably exist, but are rather sotto voce about this matter).
Well, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s commentary on this matter is a little better, but I have a tendency to read around such items – to learn from the useful and generous, and gloss over the objectionable. Rabbis do, after all, make mistakes too. To play with one of Hillel’s commentaries, who wants to be left pearched on only one foot?