Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Definition of a ZADDIK


I would like to start a discussion defining the true meaning of a ZADDIK (righteous Jew). In chassidic circles a Rebbe is mostly seen as a ZADDIK. A person who has a close relationship to G - d because this person is so terribly pious and doesn't really live in our lower physical spheres. A ZADDIK always walks in the way of G - d, Torah and anything holy you can imagine. You can believe that every Rebbe is a ZADDIK or you may not ... However, the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745 - 1812), had a slightly different understanding of what a ZADDIK is. At least, according to his famous book called TANYA

Already at the beginning of the first chapter, the Alter Rebbe (also called "Ba'al HaTanya"), gives his own definition of a ZADDIK: 

A ZADDIK is a person who has totally overcome his Yetzer HaRah (the negative side in each of us). Meaning that no temptation whatsoever is able to pull him down but he is able to stick to his pious way and thus, to G - d. 

Basically the Book of Tanya is teaching a Jew how to become a BENONI (an intermediate who is neither a RASHA - evil person - nor a ZADDIK). Our goal has to be striving to become a BENONI who still has his Yetzer HaRah but, in a way, is trying his best to overcome it. At least sometimes.

This definition of the Alter Rebbe seems a bit strange to me. Actually I like his definition but it simply seems to be so impossible of reaching the ZADDIK level today. Just look around and tell me who is able to withdraw himself into holiness only. I hardly see any chassidic Rebbe doing this, as they have to deal with all those worldy community matters. Let alone finances and power quarrels.

My question is how the Alter Rebbe got to his conclusion whereas other Rabbis define a ZADDIK as a righteous person but don't necessarily stress to get rid of his Yetzer HaRah. 


  1. I recommend reading Gershon Scholem to understand the Sabbatean influence on Hassidism.

  2. B"H

    I know the book and I like it very much !

  3. bs"d

    There are two types of Tzadikim, according to Tanya. The "incomplete" Tzadik still has a vestige of Yetzer haRa.

    But you are correct - a Tzadik gamur is quite rare...