If someone was to tell you it’s a good thing to strive to be an intermediate or in the middle, you’d look at them like they were crazy. That is until you understand that the middle is in between a rasha (wicked one) and a Tzaddik (righteous one). The main lesson thus far in the Tanya is that of the Beinoni.
According to Chabad.org a Beinoni is “(lit. “intermediate one”); an individual whose spiritual labors have brought him to a level of perfection in thought, word and deed, despite his still-active evil inclination.” And according to Tzvi Freeman when he talks about the Alter Rebbe, Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the Tanya is the book for the Beinoni… the average, middle of the road person.
Most of us are Beinonim, though to be honest, I sometimes feel like I am the low end of that. But it’s good to know that this struggle is universal… and that it is a struggle. A Tzaddik is something attainable for only a few, and while it may be a worthwhile pursuit to strive to be a Tzaddik, it is better to recognize where you are, and where you can realistically land.
So every single day we must recognize our two souls… the animal or natural soul and the G-dly soul. And what we focus on and feed is the soul that will grow stronger. The natural soul is not evil, but it does look for certain things that pull us away from being holy and connected. And so we are what we are, we are who we are, but we can move forward and higher.
There are those, according to Tzvi, who are boundless light… certain souls that are just created this way, like Moses and Abraham. But what about the rest of us? There is hope, great hope, and there are actions we can all take. “G-d is here in what you do, in what you say, in that you think.” What you are doing right now is what you have control over. According to Rabbi Gordon: The secret weapon we all have is the mind, for the mind rules the heart. Intellect rules emotion. The mind can state, “I don’t want to go there.” And thus, this is the battle. This is the day-to-day struggle. Life is about discipline. And if that sounds a bit cold, there is another way to look at it, a way I much prefer: Activate the love… the love for G-d… and activate that divine spark.
Of course, the next question must be, how do we do this? We must pray, for in prayer we connect to Hashem and that love is sparked. It is in prayer that we can all be holy, all be filled with Divine Love. We must recite the Shema, in the morning and in the evening. This is the pivotal prayer that connects us with Hashem and reminds us of all we need to know.We must study, for studying Torah is the most powerful Mitzvah there is. And we must learn, for learning brings us closer to G-d and to our own souls. It elevates us in amazing ways. So while we may be stuck in the middle, there are different levels and different areas of the middle where we can reside. And the middle is actually a pretty darn good place to be. But if you are feeling lost and low, do not be afraid.
“It is from our lowest point where we can actually soar the highest.”
“Do not wallow in despair
But be okay when you are there
For sometimes when you’re low and down
You still do walk on hallowed ground.”