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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 23 Shevat
In this chapter and the next, he will discuss another type of melancholy, that caused by concern over one's sinful thoughts and desires.
This category itself may be further subdivided into two:
In this chapter the Alter Rebbe discusses the first situation.
- Where these thoughts occur while one is occupied with his material affairs, and
- Where these thoughts disturb his service of G-d in Torah study, prayer and the like.
He states that not only are these thoughts no cause for sadness, but on the contrary, they ought to give rise to joy].
If, however, his sadness does not stem from anxiety over sins that he has committed, but from the fact that sinful thoughts and desires enter his mind, then:
If these thoughts occur to him not during his service of G-d, but while he is occupied with his own affairs and with mundane matters and the like, he should, on the contrary, be happy in his lot; for although these sinful thoughts enter his mind, he averts his attention from them.
[It is clear that here we are speaking of one who does not wilfully dwell on sinful thoughts, for if he does so he is a sinner, and the previous chapter has already dealt with sadness arising from sins].
By averting his mind from sinful thoughts he fulfills the injunction,  "You shall not follow after your heart and after your eyes, by which you go astray."
[Only when sinful thoughts enter one's mind can he fulfill this command.
For the intention of the verse is not that one be at a level where such thoughts would not occur to him: this is the level of tzaddikim, who have eradicated all evil from their hearts.
Surely, then this verse is not addressed to tzaddikim. The verse refers rather to one who does have such thoughts, and he is commanded to banish them - as the Alter Rebbe continues]:
The above verse surely does not speak of tzaddikim, referring to them (G-d forbid) as "going astray," but of Beinonim like himself, in whose mind there do enter erotic thoughts, whether of an innocent nature [or otherwise], and when he averts his mind from them, he fulfills this injunction.
Our Sages have said:  "When one passively abstains from sin, he is rewarded as though he had actively performed a mitzvah."
Consequently, he should rejoice in his compliance with the injunction just as he does when performing an actual positive precept.
[Thus not only should the occurence of these thoughts not grieve him, but it ought to bring him joy, for only thereby is he able to fulfill this commandment].
On the contrary, such sadness is due to conceit.
For he does not know his place, and that is why he is distressed because he has not attained the level of a tzaddik, to whom such foolish thoughts surely do not occur.
For were he to recognize his station, that he is very far from the rank of tzaddik, and would that he be a Beinoni and not a rasha for even a single moment throughout his life [i.e., this is what he should be striving for at present, rather than vainly desiring to be a tzaddik], then surely, this is the due measure of the Beinonim and their task:
To subdue the evil impulse and the thought that rises from the heart to the mind, and to completely avert his mind from it, repulsing it [as it were] with both hands, as explained above [in chapter 12.
The Alter Rebbe explained there that the evil in the soul of the Beinoni remains vigorous; his task is to prevent it from expressing itself in thought, speech, and action. Thus, he has no control over the occurence of evil thoughts in his mind, but only over his acceptance or rejection of these thoughts].
With every repulsion of this thought from his mind, the sitra achra is suppressed here below [in This World], and, since "the arousal from below [in our case, the initiative of the Beinoni in suppressing the sitra achra] produces a corresponding arousal above," the sitra achra above in the supernal worlds [the root of the sitra achra of this world] which soars like an eagle, is also suppressed, thus realizing the verse,  "Though you soar aloft like the eagle ....I will yet bring you down from there, says G-d."
Indeed the Zohar, in Parshat Terumah (p. 128), extolls the Divine satisfaction that occurs when the sitra achra is subdued here below, for "thereby G-d's glory rises above all, more than by any other praise, and this ascent its greater than all else, etc."
[Thus, it is the evil thoughts which enter the mind of the Beinoni that enable him to fulfill G-d's command in averting his attention from them, thereby subduing the sitra achra].
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