with Gil Dekel.

ואפילו העובר על איסור קל של דברי סופרים מקרי רשע כדאיתא בפ”ב דיבמות ובפ”ק דנדה

“Even if a person transgresses only a very light rabbinical prohibition [one which was forbidden by the sages, but isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Torah], he is considered a Rasha.” Let’s give an example: handling money on Shabbat. It doesn’t say in the Torah not to handle money on Shabbat. You’re not doing ‘Malakha’, work, by handling money on the Shabbat. Indeed, we are asked not to do work in Shabbat, but handling money is not work. The reason you’re not allowed to handle money on Shabbat is because you are not allowed to do business in Shabbat. There are other various reasons why the sages forbade us to handle money on Shabbat – it is ‘Muktzah’, forbidden. So Muktzah, generally, is a rabbinical prohibition which is meant to keep us as far away as possible from tempting to do wrong.

We might think now that maybe the Beinoni is someone who keeps all the Mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah, never transgresses any of them, but is not so particular about one or two rabbinical prohibitions. The Alter Rebbe refutes that, saying: no. Such a person is still not a Beinoni. He is transgressing the words of the Hachamim (wise men) of the Talmudic times, of our sages, so he is coming in the category of a Rasha.

ואפילו מי שיש בידו למחות ולא מיחה נק’ רשע [בפ”ו דשבועו’]

“And even someone who has it within his ability to rebuke, but he didn’t rebuke, is called a Rasha” as it says in the 6th chapter of the Gemara tract of Shevu’ot.

Maybe, in trying to come to a definition of the Beinoni, we can suggest that he is someone who never transgresses rabbinical prohibitions but who fails to fulfil that which our sages told us – that when we see another person committing a sin, we should apprehend them and in some way tell them off so they will not do a sin. Because, as you know, “Kol Israel Havrevim Ze La’ze” we are all mutually responsible for each other.

In other words, we are all part of a whole, so if one of us sees another committing sin, we are responsible to correct them. If we have the ability to help another person not to sin, yet we ignore them, then we become culpable ourselves. We become responsible. We are supposed to interfere – on the basis that we can help. If it isn’t going to help, there is no point in interfering. But if we know that the other person would listen, or if we think that he might listen, we should try.

Therefore, we might suggest that a Beinoni is someone who keeps all the Mitzvot, including the rabbinical prohibitions, but he is a bit lax on trying to encourage his fellow men not to sin. He is not a sinner himself; he doesn’t do any sin himself, but he watches other people sin and it doesn’t worry him. A bit like Noach  נח ; He builds an ark to save all species, but he doesn’t really try to stop the people themselves from sinning. Not like Abraham  אברהם  who tried to stop people from sinning, and Moshe Rabbenu  משה רבינו  who definitely did.

Alter Rebbe says that if a person does not help fellow men, then he is not Beinoni, rather he becomes also guilty with the sin that other did and which he did not try to prevent.

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

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

וכ”ש וק”ו במבטל איזו מ”ע שאפש’ לו לקיימה כמו כל שאפשר לו לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק שעליו דרשו רז”ל כי דבר ה’ בזה וגו’ הכרת תכרת

“And how much more so than if a person nullifies”, in other words, he fails to perform “a positive command which was possible for him to perform; and furthermore, all those who have the ability to study the Torah, but don’t; about whom our sages have taught that they are despising the word of God”, and “hakrot tikaret” surely, they could be cut off.

So a person cannot be considered Beinoni, if he does all good, but then does not study.

ופשיטא דמקרי רשע טפי מעובר איסור דרבנן

Such a person who fails to study the Torah when he has the ability to do so, or any other positive commands which he has the ability to do, is called a Rasha, which is even more Rasha than those who transgress rabbinical prohibitions.

וא”כ ע”כ הבינוני אין בו אפי’ עון ביטול תורה ומש”ה טעה רבה בעצמו לומר שהוא בינוני

We come to a conclusion.

“If that’s the case, then the Beinoni does not even have within him the sin of failing to study the Torah, and for this reason Rabbah mistook himself to say that he was a Beinoni.” In other words, a Beinoni is really a lofty level.

A Beinoni is someone who keeps all the Mitzvot, including the rabbinical prohibitions, and he studies the Torah. He is not made of ‘half sins’, nor he is in a state of a full repentance (where he is then considered a fully Tzadik). A Beinoni always helps his fellow men, rebukes them from committing sins, and he does all good things he is capable of doing; he never ignores an opportunity to do good, never fail to see what good he can bring.

So, if that is the definition of a Beinoni, than the difference between a Beinoni and a Tzadik must be a very minor one, and which can easily be mistaken. That is why we say that Rabbah mistook himself and said that he was a Beinoni.

Now we can understand this complex issue a little bit better (even if not completely yet). We can see why Rabbah considered himself to be a Beinoni; because a Beinoni is a very lofty level of person who keeps all the Mitzvot.

Now, how come somebody who keeps all the Mitzvot is still not considered a Tzadik? This is a good question, and is something that we are going to study as we carry on.

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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 covers pages 2-4 in the book.