Learning the Tanya

Introduction

The Tanya – תניא – is an early work of Hasidic philosophy, by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Hasidism. It was first published in 1796. Its formal title is Likkutei Amarim (ליקוטי אמרים‎, “collection of statements”), but is more commonly known by its first Hebrew word tanya, which means “it has been taught”.

The Tanya is the main work of the Chabad Lubavitch philosophy. Subsequent teachings of Chabad build upon the approach of the Tanya. Chabad differed from other forms of Hasidism in structured philosophical investigation and intellectual analysis of Hasidic Torah exegesis.

The Tanya emphasizes the mind as the route to internalising dveikus (mystical, emotional union with God), in contrast to general Hasidism’s creative enthusiasm in faith. As a consequence, Chabad Hasidic writings are typically characterised by their systematic intellectual structure, while other classic texts of general Hasidic mysticism are usually more compiled or anecdotal in nature.

This introduction has been adapted from the article, Tanya, on Wikipedia.

The author

The Tanya was written by Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known to the Chabad Jews as the Alter Rebbe, 1745 – 1812.

He first lived in Liozna, then Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, now in Republic of Belarus. He later settled in Liadi, Imperial Russia, now in Republic of Belarus.

English translations and commentaries

A. Likkutei Amarim Tanya – Official Chabad/Kehot edition

This was the first English translation of the Tanya. By Rabbi Nissan Mindel in 1962. It is the most affordable way to purchase the entire English translation in print form. However, the translation and notes are considered minimal. 6″ x 9″ Hardcover, 1168 pages

B. The English Steinsaltz Tanya (newer)

Written by Adin Evan Israel Steinsaltz, published by Koren Publishers. In English, only volume 3 (Sha’ar HaYihud VeHa’emuna and Iggeret HaTeshuva) is currently available. Volumes 1 and 2 are going to be released soon.

C. The English Steinsaltz Tanya (older)

Previous to the newer Koren offering, a different publisher put out their own series of books by Adin Steinsaltz. This series was never finished. It goes to chapter 37 (out of 53) of the Tanya’s first section; it doesn’t include the other sections.

1) Opening the Tanya: Discovering the Moral and Mystical Teachings of a Classic Work of Kabbalah (Jossey-Bass, 2003). 384 pages. Chapters 1-12.

2) Learning From the Tanya: Volume Two (Jossey-Bass, 2005). 384 pages. Chapters 13 to 26.

3) Understanding the Tanya: Volume Three released in August 2007. 384 pages. Chapters 27 to 37.

D. The Practical Tanya by Chaim Miller

The Practical Tanya – Part One – The Book for Inbetweeners”

The Practical Tanya – Part Two – Sha’ar Ha-Yichud Ve-Ha-Emunah

The Practical Tanya – Part Three – Igeres Ha-Teshuvah

E. Lessons in Tanya. Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg, Kehot Publication Society

This is a comprehensive translation and commentary, first delivered as a series of lectures on AM radio in New York state by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. “The lectures were eventually distilled into print and in 1983 appeared in Yiddish as Shiurim BeSefer Hatanya.” They were soon published with a Hebrew translation in 1984. After that came the English translation in 1987.

For its 25th anniversary, Lessons in Tanya has been redesigned…This new and revised edition has received an aesthetic face-lift featuring: Clear design and layout to enable continuous side-by-side study flow; Vowelized and punctuated Hebrew text; Interpolated commentary; Clear daily study indicators; and editorial updates and corrections.

Sections of the Tanya

1. Sefer shel Beinonim סֵפֶר שֶׁל בֵּינוֹנִים (“The Book of the Average Men”).

2. Sha’ar ha-Yichud ve’ha’Emunah שער היחוד והאמונה (“The Gateway of Unity and Belief”).

3. Iggeret HaTeshuvah התשובה אגרת (“Letter of Repentance”).

4. Iggeret HaKodesh אִגֶּרֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ (“Letter of Holiness”) – Added posthumously by the Baal HaTanya’s sons.

5. Kuntres Acharon קונטרס אחרון (“Last Thesis”) – Added posthumously by the Baal HaTanya’s sons.

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