והא דאמרינן בעלמא דמחצה על מחצה מקרי בינוני ורוב זכיות מקרי צדיק
As for the well-known saying1 that one [whose deeds and misdeeds are] equally balanced is called a Beinoni, while [he who has] a majority of virtues outweighing his sins is called a tzaddik,
הוא שם המושאל
this is only a borrowed name, i.e., a figurative use of the term borrowed from its true usage in order to emphasize a particular point. Thus the names Beinoni and tzaddik,denoting a balance between merits and sins, are in fact but borrowed names
לענין שכר ועונש
used in regard to reward and punishment,
לפי שנדון אחר רובו
because one is judged according to the majority [of his deeds],
ומקרי צדיק בדינו מאחר שזוכה בדין
and he is termed “righteous” in reference to his verdict, since he is acquitted at his trial.
It is only in this legal sense that the term tzaddik is applied to one who performs more good deeds than evil.
אבל לענין אמיתת שם התואר והמעלה של מעלת ומדריגות חלוקות צדיקים ובינונים
If, however, we seek to truly define the distinct qualities and ranks oftzaddikim and Beinonim,
אמרו רבותינו ז״ל: צדיקים — יצר טוב שופטן, שנאמר: ולבי חלל בקרבי
our Sages have remarked that the righteous are “judged” i.e., motivated and ruled, solely by their good nature, as it is written,2 “And my heart is slain within me,”
שאין לו יצר הרע כי הרגו בתענית
meaning that he i.e., David, the author of this verse was devoid of an evil nature, having slain it through fasting.
David extirpated his evil nature through fasting; other ways too are possible.
We thus see from the Gemara that the definition of tzaddik in its true sense applies to the person who has rid himself of his evil nature.
אבל כל מי שלא הגיע למדרגה זו, אף שזכיותיו מרובים על עונותיו, אינו במעלת ומדריגת צדיק כלל
But whoever has not attained this degree of ridding himself of his evil nature,even though his virtues outnumber his sins, is not at all at the level and rank of tzaddik.
In fact, not only has he not reached the rank of tzaddik: he has not yet attained even the level of Beinoni, as has been demonstrated above.
ולכן אמרו רבותינו ז״ל במדרש: ראה הקדוש ברוך הוא בצדיקים שהם מועטים, עמד ושתלן ככל דור ודור וכו׳
This is why our Sages have expounded:3 “The Almighty saw that the righteous were few, so He arose and planted i.e., and spread them in every generation,”
וכמו שכתוב: וצדיק יסוד עולם
[for,] as it is written,4 “The tzaddik is the foundation of the world.”
Thus, in each generation there must be a tzaddik who serves as the “foundation of the world.”
This paucity of tzaddikim (“The righteous were few”) can be explained only if atzaddik is he who has totally rid himself of his evil nature. Were the term tzaddik to mean one whose good deeds outweigh the evil, why then do our Sages say that “the righteous were few,” when the overwhelming majority of Jews have more good deeds than evil!
אך ביאור הענין
However, the explanation of the matter, so that we better understand the levels of tzaddik and Beinoni, as well as the various gradations within their ranks,
על פי מה שכתב הרב חיים ויטאל ז״ל בשער הקדושה ובע׳ חיים שער נ׳ פרק ב׳
[is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote in Shaar HaKedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 5, ch. 2) —
דלכל איש ישראל אחד צדיק ואחד רשע יש שתי נשמות
that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls,
וכדכתיב: ונשמות אני עשיתי,
as it is written,5 “And neshamot (souls) which I have made.”
Though the verse speaks of an individual Jew (as is indicated by the singular form of the word ruach (spirit) in the preceding phrase, “When the spirit of a man which emanates from Me will be humbled…”), the plural term souls is nevertheless used, indicating that every Jew possesses two souls.
שהן שתי נפשות
These are two nefashot6 — two souls and life-forces.
נפש אחת מצד הקליפה וסטרא אחרא
One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.
“Kelipah” means a shell or peel. G-d created forces which conceal the G-dly life-force found in all creation as a peel covers and conceals a fruit. “Sitra achra” means “the other side” — the side of creation that is the antithesis of holiness and purity. (The two terms are generally synonymous.)
והיא המתלבשת בדם האדם להחיות הגוף
It is this nefesh (which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra) that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body;
וכדכתיב: כי נפש הבשר בדם היא
as it is written,7 “For the nefesh of the flesh (i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life) is in the blood.”
וממנה באות כל המדות רעות מארבעה יסודות רעים שבה
From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.
Just as the four physical elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the foundation of all physical entities, so too is this nefesh comprised of four corresponding spiritualelements. Since they derive from kelipah and evil, they themselves are evil, and from them in turn one’s evil characteristics come into being.
דהיינו: כעס וגאוה מיסוד האש שנגבה למעלה
Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards;
Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.
ותאות התענוגים מיסוד המים, כי המים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג
the appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.
The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.
והוללות וליצנות והתפארות ודברים בטלים מיסוד הרוח
frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; like air, they lack substance;
ועצלות ועצבות מיסוד העפר
and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.
Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.
וגם מדות טובות שבטבע כל ישראל בתולדותם, כמו רחמנות וגמילות חסדים, באות ממנה
From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew’s character, such as compassion and benevolence.
But since this is a nefesh of kelipah and evil, how do good characteristics come from it? This matter is now addressed.
כי בישראל נפש זו דקליפה היא מקליפת נוגה, שיש בה גם כן טוב
For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from thekelipah called “nogah”, which also contains good; and the good within thisnefesh gives rise to these positive natural traits.
והיא מסוד ע׳ הדעת טוב ורע
[This kelipah] is from the esoteric “Tree of Knowledge” [which is comprised] of good and evil.8
מה שאין כן נפשות אומות העולם הן משאר קליפות טמאות שאין בהן טוב כלל
The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever,
כמו שכתוב בע׳ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין
as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.
Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.
וכדאיתא בגמרא על פסוק: וחסד לאומים חטאת — שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות העולם עושין אינן אלא להתייהר כו׳
So the Gemara9 comments on the verse,10 “The kindness of the nations is sin” — that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification…
When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.
Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive — the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.
It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah.11 Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.
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