Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Did I really just finish the book of Tanya?
The book of Tanya is the primary text of Chabad Chasidut. It is customary to study a portion of it each day. Yesterday we finished the yearly cycle and today, the 19th of Kislev, we begin to study it anew. This is not just another date on the calendar. The yearly Tanya cycle begins on this particular day because it marks a festive and world-changing event: It was on the 19th of Kislev, 5559 (1798), that the Alter Rebbe was released from a Russian prison after he had been sent there for the crime of disseminating Chasidut. The Alter Rebbe, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was the author of the book of Tanya and the founder of Chabad Chasidut.
In a certain sense, Chasidut itself left prison on this day, as though official recognition to study and disseminate it had been granted from on high. Since then, it has been conquering the world. Every Chabad house, every Chasidic tune, everything started from there. Today, multitudes throughout the world participate in 19th of Kislev events, as people go out from confinement to freedom, from self-limitation to limitless possibility.
I strive to study the daily portion of Tanya and today, baruch HaShem, I began the Tanya anew. I do not always understand what I read in this profound work, and don't ask me to repeat every idea that it contains. Yet if I had to summarize it in one word, that word would be penimiyut (inwardness).
There is a dimension of inwardness, often hidden but waiting to be accessed, in the world. There is a potential for illumination and vitality and soulfulness and meaning in everything we do, but we need to bring it out. A person can pray, but how does he pray? A person can be married, but what is the quality of the marriage? A person can be a parent or teacher or student, but in what manner? The question is not only about what we do, but how we do it. Do we perform like robots or act with fire and enthusiasm? In a time of much hitzoniyut (outwardness), Chasididut - whose holiday is celebrated today - offers us inwardness instead.
Happy 19th of Kislev.