with Gil Dekel.

ולהבין כל זה באר היטב וגם להבין מה שאמר איוב [ב”ב פ”א] רבש”ע בראת צדיקי’ בראת רשעי’ כו’

The Alter Rebbe goes on now to explain a few views on what Beinoni is and what he is not.

Alter Rebbe says “we’re going to have to understand all that we mentioned above very clearly; and a further thing, we need to understand what Iyyob (Job) said to God”, and he follows with a quote from the Gemara in Baba Basra, Perek Alef.

In Baba Basra, Perek Alef, we find that Iyyob, who went through tremendous suffering, said: “Ribono Shel Olam”, master of the universe, “You have created people as Tzaddikkim, you have created people as Rashayim”. Iyyob wanted to turn the pot on its head. He wanted to free the world of punishment, free the world of affliction from God by saying that man has no free choice, as they were created naturally as they are, and ‘programmed’ to be Tzaddikkim or Rashayim. Therefore, it was pointless for God to bring suffering and affliction to the world, because the punishment has no meaning if you have no free choice. Punishment is only valid if the person has a choice, and can be corrected.

והא צדיק ורשע לא קאמר.

The Gemara answers at this point, that this is not true. When the heavenly voice goes forth, before a soul is sent down and the person is created, the Malachim, the angles, bring the soul before the Ribono Shel Olam (God). And they ask what will this person be? Is the person going to be rich or poor? Healthy or sick? All the different possibilities that could happen to a person in life are already predestined before he is conceived; but only one thing is not decided: whether the person will be a Tzadik or a Rasha.

The Alter Rebbe writes: “Tzadik ve Rasha Lo Kamar” meaning “Righteous or wicked is not spoken of.” It is not decided upon.

There is an important principle: “Ha’Kol b’Yedei Shamayim Chutz m’Yir’at Shamayim” which means that “Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of God”. The choice to do good or bad is something which all humans are given.

Therefore, when we come to analyse what the Beinoni is, what the Tzadik is and what the Rasha is, we need also to understand why the Gemara mentioned what Iyyob said, that a person is created a Tzadik or created a Rasha. It came to highlight how everybody actually has a choice, and therefore the ability, to be good. We cannot argue that one was made Rasha, and therefore will never change. The Gmara explains we all have free will, and we all can choose to be a Beinoni.

וגם להבין מהות מדרגת הבינוני שבודאי אינו מחצה זכיות ומחצה עונות

“And we also need to understand the very being and essence of the level of the Beinoni.” The Alter Rebbe says here that one thing is for certain: “A Beinoni definitely isn’t half merit and half sin”. In other words, don’t say that the in-between man, the intermediate man, is a mixture of good and bad, a mixture of merits and sins balanced equally, half-half. That is not the case.

שא”כ איך טעה רבה בעצמו לומר שהוא בינוני

“Because if that was the case, then how would the great teacher [Rabbah] mistaken himself and say that he was a Beinoni”? If the Beinoni is a person who has got a whole pile of sins, how could Rabbah say that of himself?

עד שאפי’ מלאך המות לא היה יכול לשלוט בו ונודע דלא פסיק פומיה מגירסא

Rabbah was known in his generation for the fact that his mouth never ceased learning the words of Torah, to the extent that according to a Talmudic story, when he was going to be called back to his heavenly abode, the Malach ha-Mavet, the angel of death was not able to get hold of him. “Etz Hayim Yihye La’machazikim Bo”. When a person is attached to the tree of life, it sustains life within him.

ואיך היה יכול לטעות במחצה עוונות ח”ו.

“How would he [Rabbah, a person who never ceased mouthing the words of Torah], be able to mistake himself as to being a ‘half sin’? God forbid.” This could not be the case.

In other words, it is untenable to say that Rabbah had half-sins in him, that he was a person equally balancing good and bad, with an equal amount of sins to his good deeds. It is impossible and unthinkable to say such a thing. Therefore, the Alter Rebbe says here, based on this proof, and on Rabbah’s declaration he was a Beinoni, that when we come to clarify what a Beinoni is, we cannot define Beinoni as being half-half.

Tree of Life, Tanya Book. (© Gil Dekel)

The Tree of Life, Tanya Book. (© Gil Dekel)

ועוד שהרי בשעה שעושה עונות נקרא רשע גמור

More so, there is another issue here, which precludes defining the Beinoni as half sins and half merit. “Because at the time when a person sins, he’s called a ‘Rasha Gamur’”. At the moment he is sinning, at that instant, he’s a Rasha Gamur, an absolute wicked person; he’s completely doing the opposite of what God said he should do. So, a sinner is completely in sin. He is not half-good in an act-of-sinning, rather is wholly wrong-doing.

[ואם אח”כ עשה תשובה נקרא צדיק גמור]

“And if afterwards he’ll do Teshuvah, repentance, then he is called a Tzadik Gamur.”  We know that Teshuvah has the ability to completely wipe out sins. Therefore, at that stage of repentance he’s a Tzadik Gamur. So we’ve got here a sort of pendulum, which swings from one extreme to the other, and never stops in the middle. When the person is sinning, he is a Rasha Gamur; when he’s doing Teshuvah, he becomes a Tzadik Gamur. The Beinoni does not come in here, as these are two states of extreme; none includes being a Beinoni, the intermediate person.

We now want to explain quickly how could it be that when a person does bad he’s a Rasha and at the moment he is doing good he’s a Tzadik? How could it be so dichotomous? The answer is that everybody has ‘Nitzotz Elokhot’, the sparks of God within them. No one is 100% bad. Nothing can exist without God’s creative power within it. Teshuva is something which happens only with help from above, and therefore is beyond us.

For a Rasha Gamur, an absolute wicked person, it’s very hard to do Teshuvah. This is what happened to Pharaoh in Mizrayim, Egypt. God has hardened his heart, symbolising that the act of being wicked makes it difficult on a person to change. Notwithstanding that, it is also said “Ein Davar Ha’omed Befney Ha’teshuva”, nothing stands in the way of Teshuva. A person can push hard enough, and he’ll be able to do Teshuvah.

« Back Next »

Go back to table of content.

20 Jan 2012.

© Gil Dekel. My thanks to my teachers.Likkutei Amarim – Tanya, Bi-Lingual Edition, Revised, ISBN 0-8266-0400-5, ‘Kehot’ Publication Society, NY. 1993 [© 1984]. This lesson is for page 2 in the book.