Written by Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi
, aka The Alter Rebber
, aka Baal ha Tanya
. First published in 1797
after twenty years of work.
After a renowned Chassic rabbi died, his followers split due to differences in opinion. Rav Zalman went on to found what would be Chabad. His book, Likutei Amarim, is popularly referred to as the Tanya, the first word on the volume. Tanya literally means ‘that which has been revealed’.
It is also referred to as Sefer Shel Beinonim, ‘The Book of Intermediates”.
The Alter Rebbe wrote the Tanya as an outline the Chabad school of philosophy. According to Chabad, it contains the key to Jewish mysticism and spiritual awareness. The Tanya sets up a complex spiritual worldview which essentially holds that everything we think of as yesh (something) is actually ayin (nothing) and that which is ayin is really the only true existent. But the world is not really that simple: the Tanya does not deny the reality of the world. Rather, the material world of yesh is, in a slightly more subtle way than usually understood, the "body" and the world of ayin is the "soul." Some scholars, such as Rav Nachman of Breslov, postulate that Rav Shneur believed the world to be a dream of sorts.
Later scholars have found significant details on psychology and few attribute it to Freud’s ideas on the soul, etc. The Tanya is considered a logical descendant of the Zohar, Kabbalah, and other more esoteric works in Jewish mysticism. Unlike these works, the Tanya speaks to the layman but can be understood on many higher levels while the study of Kabbalah is restricted to scholars who are at least 40 years old do to its divine and esoteric concepts that have driven people to insanity.
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Updated 15:15 EST Friday, July 27, 2001