In these turbulent times, it is refreshing to have moments for celebration such as this Shabbat, the 19th of the Hebrew month of Kislev which commemorates the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.
From a personal perspective it also represents a milestone in celebrating the annual completion and renewal for learning the Tanya – the seminal work of Rabbi Schneur Zalman Boruchovitch of Liadi, also known as the “Alter Rebbe”, whose liberation is being celebrated as a Yom Tov on Shabbat and Sunday, 19th and 20th of Kislev.
WHAT IS TANYA?
What is Tanya? The Tanya compacts four millennia of Jewish wisdom to answer the great personal and existential questions of life. It has revolutionized the way we think about G‑d, the human soul, the world and our place in it.
Why the Alter Rebbe Wrote Tanya
The Alter Rebbe’s decision to write a book that would serve as a practical guide for life is described by Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon z”l in the short video here.
Take a Leap of Faith – Start Tanya on Shabbat
The new cycle for the study of Tanya is this Shabbat, and as an enthusiastic devotee of Tanya, I want to share my discovery with the readers. As Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz states in his book “Opening the Tanya”, “the more one reads this book, the more one discovers illuminating thoughts and ideas, a comprehensive outlook on life, insight into the structure of Jewish history, and moral guidance on countless problems.”
To me, studying Tanya gives me a compass to keep my own life on track, and a place to search for answers to the haunting question raised by the Alter Rebbe in response to one of the Rebbe’s interrogators during his period of incarceration:
“Where are you?’” explained the Rebbe, “is G‑d’s perpetual call to every man. Where are you in the world? What have you accomplished? You have been allotted a certain number of days, hours, and minutes in which to fulfill your mission in life. You have lived so many years and so many days,”—here Rabbi Schneur Zalman spelled out the exact age of the minister—“Where are you? What have you achieved?”
Study Tanya the Rabbi Gordon z”l Way
There are a number of ways that one can study Tanya. My sojourn into Tanya was borne out of a commitment to memorialize the murders of Rabbi and Rebbitzin Holzberg in 2008, which I described in my prior blog, Born Out of Tragedy – The Tanya Came into My Life. And I must admit there were times when I did not think I would keep to my commitment. However, I discovered one means which has not only afforded me a way to honor my commitment, but given me insights into Tanya that enables the material to have deep imprints on my outlook toward life and Chassidut.