Igeret HaTeshuva - Teshuvah Letter

Baal HaTanya and Shulchan Aruch - Alter Rebbe

In the Tanya edition published in Zolkvi in the year m'vasseir tov ("Herald of Good," numerically equivalent to 5559, or 1799), the first version of Igeret Hateshuva was printed. It was not divided into chapters and there are variances (from the present text) in content.

Igeret HaTeshuva ,

beginning of Chapter 10

The theme of the previous chapter was teshuvah ila'ah and how it finds expression in the “cleaving of spirit to Spirit” — through Torah study, tzedakah and acts of lovingkindness.

והנה תשובה עילאה זו, דאתדבקותא דרוחא ברוחא על ידי תורה וגמילות חסדים

This higher level of teshuvah, the cleaving of spirit to Spirit through the study of Torah and the performance of acts of kindness,

היא בבחינת המשכה מלמעלה למטה

is a matter of eliciting from Above.

Neither Torah study nor acts of lovingkindness elevate a person solely as a result of his own initiative and Divine service. Rather, he is aided from Above to reach an infinitely higher level than he would have attained alone.

להיות דבר ה' ממש בפיו

So that the word of G‑d shall actually be in one's mouth,

this too is a Divine gift.

וכמו שכתוב: ואשים דברי בפיך

As Scripture states, “I have placed My words in your mouth.”

Torah study thus accomplishes much more than what man could attain on its own.


וימינו תחבקני, בגמילות חסדים

“His right hand embraces me,” through man's acts of kindness,

דחסד דרועא ימינא וכו'

for “kindness is the [Supernal] right arm….”

With every act of lovingkindness one draws down Divine benevolence: one is embraced by a far loftier level of holiness than he could possibly aspire to by dint of his own spiritual service.

אבל אדם התחתון צריך לילך ממדרגה למדרגה ממטה למעלה

But mortal man must ascend from stage to stage

היא בחינת תשובה עילאה ואתדבקות רוחא ברוחא בכוונת הלב בתפלה

towards this higher level of teshuvah and this “cleaving of spirit to Spirit” through the heart's devoted worship,

ובפרט בקריאת שמע וברכותיה

particularly during Shema and its blessings,

כדי לומר ואהבת וגו' בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך וגו' באמת לאמיתו

so that he might in perfect truth say during the recitation of the Shema, “You shall love [the L-rd your G‑d] with all your heart and with all your soul…..”

וכן: והיו הדברים האלה וגו' ודברת בם וגו'

Likewise: “These words [which I command you today] shall be [upon your heart]….. And you shall speak of them…..”

All the above verses speak of the study of Torah.

Note of the Rebbe: “`For Scripture speaks [here] of the study of the Torah' (Berachot 13b). See [Tanya,] Part I, end of chapter 49.”

להיות דבר ה' בפיו באמת

The word of G‑d must truly be in his mouth, [which is the case when one's mouth serves as a vessel for G‑d's word]

ואין אמת וכו'

and “there is no truth [but Torah].”

וכן לקיים כל המצות

He must also perform all the mitzvot,

כמו שכתוב: אשר קדשנו במצותיו

as it is written, “He has sanctified us with His commandments.”

Note: From the blessing recited before the performance of certain mitzvot.

כמו הרי את מקודשת לי

This [sanctification] has the same sense as in the phrase, “You are sanctified unto me” — i.e., separate from all others and wholly sanctified unto G‑d through the performance of His commandments.

היא בחינת קדש העליון

This is the level of Kodesh HaElyon (“Supernal Holiness”), which one draws upon himself through the performance of the mitzvot.

לשון פרישות והבדלה

“Kodesh” translated “holiness” connotes something apart, or transcendent,

שאינו יכול להתלבש תוך עלמין

that cannot be contained within the created worlds, permeating each of them with Divine life-force commensurate with its particular capacity,

משום דכולא קמיה כלא חשיב

since “everything is considered as naught before Him.”

Relative to this transcendent level, the differing levels of spirituality of the various created beings are of no consequence.

אלא בבחינת סובב כל עלמין

Rather, this is a level [of holiness] that transcends [lit., “encompasses”] all worlds, and hence affects them all equally from afar, so to speak;

הוא רצון העליון ברוך הוא וכו'

this is [the level of] the Supreme Will, and so on, which is drawn down into this world through the performance of mitzvot,

כמו שכתוב: בלקוטי אמרים פרק מ"ו

as discussed in the first part of Tanya, Likutei Amarim, chapter 46.

וגם אחר התפלה אומרים: אליך ה' נפשי אשא

After prayer as well, we say, “To You, O G‑d, I lift my soul,” referring to the initiative of the worshiper below in raising his soul upward to its Source,

דהיינו לאתדבקא רוחא ברוחא כל היום וכו'

so that through the performance of mitzvot spirit will cleave to Spirit throughout the day…..

וכל זה: על ידי ההתבוננות בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

All this is brought about through meditation on the grandeur of the Infinite One,

בהעמקת הדעת בשתים לפניה ובפסוקי דזמרה, כנודע

concentrating the mind deeply during the two blessings preceding Shema and during the preparatory hymns of praise known as pesukei dezimrah, as is known.

Meditating in this fashion gives birth to a love for G‑d, which is translated into the study of the Torah and the performance of mitzvot. This form of Divine service is teshuvah ila'ah that takes the direction called milmata lemala; it works its way upward from the initiative taken by the enterprising worshiper who elevates himself by his own bootstraps.

Igeret HaTeshuva ,

end of Chapter 10

ומאחר שהתפלה היא בחינת תשובה עילאה

Since prayer is an expression of teshuvah ila'ah, the higher level of return,

צריך להקדים לפניה בחינת תשובה תתאה

it must be preceded by teshuvah tata'ah, the lower level of return that is reached by the contriteness of a penitent heart.

וזה שאמרו רז"ל במשנה: אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש

This is what the Sages intended in the Mishnah: “One should embark on worship only in an earnest frame of mind.”

ופירש רש"י: הכנעה

Rashi explains this to mean “humility”.

והיא בחינת תשובה תתאה

This is the state of teshuvah tata'ah, chanoch adds: lower level of Teshuvah

לעורר רחמים כנ"ל

in which one arouses Divine compassion for oneself, as noted above, in chapters 7 and 8.

וכדיליף התם בגמרא מקרא דכתיב

This the Talmud infers from a phrase which states with regard to Chanah,

והיא מרת נפש

“She was bitter of spirit, [and she prayed to G‑d].”

אכן בברייתא שם: תנו רבנן, אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך שמחה

At the same time we must note the Beraita there: “Our Sages taught, `One should embark on worship only with joy.'”

Thus, while the individual is to begin his preparations for prayer by achieving a state of bitterness of spirit, he is expected to begin his actual prayers in a state of joy.

ועכשיו בדור יתום הזה, שאין הכל יכולין להפוך לבם כרגע מן הקצה

In our bereaved generation, however, when not all are capable of turning their hearts instantly from one extreme [to the other], from humility to joy,

אזי עצה היעוצה: להקדים בחינת תשובה תתאה בתיקון חצות כנ"ל

it is advised that teshuvah tata'ah be practiced earlier, at Tikkun Chatzot; This is an especially appropriate time for the spiritual stocktaking that leads to the humility of a “broken and contrite heart,” as noted above.

ומי שאי אפשר לו בכל לילה, על כל פנים לא יפחות מפעם אחת בשבוע, לפני יום השבת

Whoever cannot do this nightly should maintain an absolute minimum of once every week, before the Shabbat.

Note of the Rebbe: “As explained in chapter 11 of Kuntres HaTefillah, this applies only to great tzaddikim….. For most people, however, it need not be nightly….”

כנודע ליודעים, שהשבת היא בחינת תשובה עילאה

It is familiar to the initiates in the mysteries of the Torah that Shabbat is of the order of teshuvah ila'ah;

ושב"ת אותיות תש"ב אנוש

indeed, the very letters of the word Shabbat spell tashev [“You return”, as in the phrase, “You cause man to return.”

כי בשבת היא עליות העולמות למקורם כו'

For on Shabbat all the worlds ascend to their Source …., and this, too, is the time of the ascent of the soul to its Source — which constitutes the act of teshuvah.

ובפרט תפלות השבת, וד"ל

The prayers of Shabbat in particular — even more than the weekday prayers — [are an act of teshuvah ila'ah]. This will suffice for the perceptive.

(ובזה יובן מה שכתוב: שובה אלי כי גאלתיך

(We can now understand the phrase, “Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

פירוש: כי מאחר שמחיתי כעב פשעיך, היא העברת הסטרא אחרא

For since [as in the preceding phrase] “I have erased your sins like a thick cloud,” removing the sitra achra,

וגאלתיך מן החיצונים בהתעוררות רחמים עליונים, באתערותא דלתתא בתשובה תתאה כנ"ל

and “I have redeemed you” from the evil lit., “extraneous” forces through the arousal of Supreme compassion following the initiative taken by man below in his teshuvah tata'ah, as explained above,

אזי שובה אלי בתשובה עילאה)

therefore, “Return to Me” — with teshuvah ila'ah.)

Igeret HaTeshuva ,

beginning of Chapter 11

The Alter Rebbe stated in the previous chapter that since prayer is an expression of teshuvah ila'ah, the higher level of return, it must be preceded by the humility and contrition of teshuvah tata'ah, the lower level of return. This is attained by spiritual stocktaking and by arousing Divine compassion upon one's soul, in keeping with the Mishnaic dictum that “one should embark on worship only in an earnest frame of mind,” which is explained by Rashi to mean “humility”.

At the same time, the Alter Rebbe continued, we are also taught that “one should embark on worship only with joy.” Since nowadays most people are incapable of instantly turning their hearts from one extreme to the other, the Alter Rebbe advised that the time for the humbled heart of teshuvah tata'ah be advanced to the Tikkun Chatzot of the preceding midnight, so that when the time for prayer arrives the worshiper will be in a state of joy.

In the present chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that difficulties notwithstanding, it is possible for the heart to simultaneously harbor two opposite emotions — the anguished soul of teshuvah tata'ah and the joy that immediately precedes and accompanies prayer.

ואמנם להיות בלבו ההכנעה, היא בחינת תשובה תתאה הנ"ל וגם השמחה בה' שתיהן ביחד

This subject, simultaneously harboring contrite humility in the heart — the state of teshuvah tata'ah, as explained — and the above — mentioned [contrary emotion of] joy in G‑d, that is also necessary for the service of prayer,

כבר מילתא אמורה בלקוטי אמרים, סוף פרק ל"ד

has already been discussed in Likutei Amarim, at the end of chapter 34.

The Alter Rebbe explained there that these two emotions are not mutually exclusive, since one's contriteness is occasioned by his body and animal soul, while his joy stems from his Divine soul and the G‑dly spark that it houses. Having two distinct causes, the two emotions can lodge together.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to quote the Zohar to this effect:

כמו שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש: חדוה תקיעא בלבאי מסטרא דא וכו'

This is as stated in the Zohar: “Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart [and joy is lodged in the other side of my heart].”

This statement was made by R. Elazar ben R. Shimon. Hearing from his father Kabbalistic insights into the Destruction of the Holy Temple, he was at one and the same time heartbroken from his renewed recognition of the enormity of the Destruction — and joyful to be inducted into the mysteries of the Torah. We thus see from the Zohar that two opposite emotions can coexist when they result from two different causes.

ובצירוף עוד האמונה והבטחון, להיות נכון לבו בטוח בה' כי חפץ חסד הוא

Joined to this is faith and confidence, the heart being firm and certain in G‑d — that “He delights in kindness,”

וחנון ורחום ורב לסלוח, תיכף ומיד שמבקש מחילה וסליחה מאתו יתברך

and is “gracious and merciful” and abundantly forgiving the instant one entreats Him for forgiveness and atonement.

(כרוב רחמיך מחה פשעי

(As it is written, “In accordance with Your abounding compassion, erase my transgressions”;

כבסני, טהרני

or: “Cleanse me, purify me”;

וכל עוונותי מחה וכו')

or: “Erase all my sins……”)

בלי שום ספק וספק ספיקא בעולם

[The worshiper offers supplications such as the above] without the faintest vestige of doubt.

וכמו שאנו מברכין בכל תפלת שמונה עשרה: תיכף שמבקשים סלח לנו כו', ברוך אתה ה' חנון המרבה לסלוח

For this reason, in every Shemoneh Esreh, the moment we plead, “Pardon us ……,” [we conclude,] “Blessed are You, O G‑d, gracious One Who pardons abundantly.”

והרי ספק ברכות להקל, משום חשש ברכה לבטלה

Now we are forbidden to recite a blessing of doubtful obligation, for fear that it be pronounced in vain.

Thus, were there even the slightest doubt as to whether G‑d forgives the sinner, we would never have been commanded to recite the above blessing.

אלא אין כאן שום ספק כלל

But there is no doubt here whatsoever,

מאחר שבקשנו: סלח לנו, מחל לנו

for we have asked, “Pardon us, forgive us.”

ואילו לא היינו חוזרים וחוטאים, היינו נגאלין מיד

Furthermore, were we not to repeat our transgressions we would be immediately redeemed,

כמו שאנו מברכין: ברוך אתה ה' גואל ישראל

in accordance with the blessing we recite immediately afterwards, “Blessed are You, O G‑d, Who redeems Israel.”

As the order of the blessings indicates, forgiveness leads to redemption — if not for our relapses.

והרי אפילו במדת בשר ודם כן, שצריך האדם למחול תיכף ומיד שמבקשים ממנו מחילה

Even by human standards [this certainty of pardon is legitimate, for] one must forgive as soon as he is asked for pardon.

ולא יהא אכזרי מלמחול

He must not cruelly withhold his forgiveness

ואפילו בקוטע יד חבירו

even if one were to cut off his hand,

כדאיתא בגמרא, בסוף פרק ח' דבבא קמא

as we find in the Gemara, at the end of chapter 8 of Bava Kama.

ואם ביקש ממנו ג פעמים ולא מחל לו, שוב אינו צריך לבקש ממנו

So, too, if one has asked his fellow for forgiveness three times and has been rebuffed, he need not apologize further.

והגבעונים, שביקש דוד המלך עליו השלום מהם מחילה בעד שאול, שהמית את הגבעונים, ולא רצו למחול

When King David asked the Gibeonites to forgive King Saul who had killed their people and they refused to do so,

גזר דוד עליהם שלא יבאו בקהל ה', שהם רחמנים וכו'

David decreed that they should not enter the congregation of G‑d, i.e., they would never be allowed to convert and thereby join the Jewish people, who are merciful ……,

כדאיתא בפרק ח' דיבמות

as we have learned in Yevamot, end of chapter 8.

ובמדת הקב"ה על אחת כמה וכמה לאין קץ

As a Divine trait, how much more certain is it — nay, infinitely more certain — [that forgiveness is swift].

Now if mere mortals are also expected to forgive instantly, what kind of praise is it that we offer the Infinite One in Shemoneh Esreh (the Amidah) by ascribing a like attribute to Him? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now anticipates:

Igeret HaTeshuva ,

middle of Chapter 11

ומה שמשבחים ומברכים את ה': חנון המרבה לסלוח, המרבה דייקא

As to the fact that we praise and bless G‑d as being “the gracious One Who abounds in forgiveness,” — the verb chosen is marbeh “abounds”, implying a quality unique to G‑d.

וכמו שכתוב בעזרא: ורב לסלוח

In Ezra [too] we find that G‑d “pardons abundantly.”


This means:

שבמדת בשר ודם, אם יחטא איש לאיש וביקש ממנו מחילה ומחל לו

In the mortal world, if one person harms another and asks his pardon which is granted,

ואחר כך חזר לסורו

and then repeats the misdeed,

קשה מאד שימחול לו שנית

it becomes more difficult to grant pardon again,

ומכל שכן בשלישית ורביעית

and certainly a third and fourth time.

אבל במדת הקב"ה אין הפרש בין פעם אחת לאלף פעמים

By the standard of G‑d, however, there is no difference between once and a thousand times.

כי המחילה היא ממדת הרחמים

For pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy,

ומדותיו הקדושות אינן בבחינת גבול ותכלית, אלא בבחינת אין סוף

and Divine attributes are not bounded and finite; they are infinite,

כמו שכתוב: כי לא כלו רחמיו

as in the verse, “For His mercies have not ended.”

ולגבי בחינת אין סוף, אין הפרש כלל בין מספר קטן לגדול

Relative to infinity there is no difference whatsoever between a small number and a large one.

דכולא קמיה כלא ממש חשיב, ומשוה קטן וגדול וכו

For “before Him all are considered as naught,” and “He makes equal the small and the great…..”

ולכן: מעביר אשמותינו בכל שנה ושנה

Therefore “He removes our sins every year.”

וכל החטאים שמתוודים בעל חטא מדי שנה, אף שחזר ועבר עליהם

As to all the sins for which we confess in the Al Chet annually, though repeatedly violated,

חוזר ומתודה עליהם ביום הכפורים בשנה הבאה, וכן לעולם

we again confess for them on Yom Kippur in the coming year, and so on always.

ובכל שנה ושנה לאו דוקא, אלא כמו כן בכל יום ויום, ג' פעמים מברכים ברוך אתה ה' חנון המרבה לסלוח

“Every year” does not necessarily imply a yearly pardon; rather, three times every day we likewise say, “Blessed are You, O G‑d, Who is gracious and abounds in forgiveness.”

וכמאמר רז"ל: תפלה, כנגד תמידין תקנוה

As our Sages teach, the prayers were instituted in place of the daily sacrificial offerings.

ותמיד של שחר היה מכפר על עבירות הלילה, ותמיד של בין הערביים על של יום

The daily morning sacrifice would atone for the sins of the previous night, and the daily evening sacrifice atoned for the sins of the past day,

וכן מדי יום ביום לעולם

and so on, day by day, constantly.

Just as in former times atonement was secured by the regular altar offerings, so too nowadays, our prayers and repentance bring about forgiveness.

What, however, is the difference between the forgiveness granted on Yom Kippur and that granted daily?

אלא שיום הכפורים מכפר על עבירות חמורות, והתמיד שהוא קרבן עולה מכפר על מצוות עשה בלבד

[“Every year” means only that] Yom Kippur atones for the grave sins, while the regular offering of the olah sacrifice atoned only for the violation of positive commands.

וכן התפלה בזמן הזה, עם התשובה כנ"ל

In our time, worship with repentance substitutes for offerings, atoning only for violations of positive commands, as noted above.

ואין זה אחטא ואשוב

However, this thrice-daily recitation of G‑d's assurance of forgiveness is not [the attitude of one who says,] “I will sin and [later] repent,” concerning whom our Sages say,7 “He is not granted an opportunity to repent.”

כי היינו דוקא שבשעת החטא היה יכול לכבוש יצרו, אלא שסומך בלבו על התשובה

For that is relevant only if while committing the sin he could have overcome his evil impulse, but depended in his heart on repenting [later].

ולכן, הואיל והתשובה גורמת לו לחטוא, אין מספיקין וכו'

Since it was [the opportunity for] repentance that caused him to sin, “He is not granted an opportunity [to repent].”

ואף גם זאת אין מספיקין דייקא

And even then, he is not granted an opportunity.

אבל אם דחק ונתחזק ונתגבר על יצרו ועשה תשובה

But if he pressed forcefully and overpowered his evil impulse and did repent,

מקבלין תשובתו

then his repentance is accepted.

This all applies to a situation where a person indeed says, “I shall sin and [later] repent.”

אבל אנו, שמבקשים בכל יום: סלח לנו

But we, who plead daily, “Forgive us,”

אנו מקדימין לבקש: והחזירנו בתשובה שלימה לפניך

preface that prayer by saying, “Bring us back with a perfect repentance before you,”

דהיינו: שלא נשוב עוד לכסלה

so that we revert to no more to folly, and sin no more.

וכן ביום הכפורים מבקשים: יהי רצון מלפניך שלא אחטא עוד

On Yom Kippur too we ask, “May it be Your will that I sin no more.”

Hence, since one does not rely on one's ability to repent later:

מספיקין ומספיקין

Opportunity is abundantly granted for repentance.

כמאמר רז"ל: הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו

As our Sages teach: “Whoever comes to purify himself [of his sin] is given assistance.”

הבא דייקא, מיד שבא

The expression “whoever comes” [indicates that he is granted assistance] as soon as he comes,


ואי לזאת, גם הסליחה והמחילה היא מיד

and the pardon and forgiveness are thus also granted forthwith.

Igerret Teshuva ,

end of Chapter 11

ומה שכתוב: וחטאתי נגדי תמיד

As to the verse that says, “My sin is always before me,”

אין המכוון להיות תמיד עצב נבזה, חס ושלום

this does not imply that one ought to be constantly melancholy and humiliated, G‑d forbid,

דהא כתיב בתריה: תשמיעני ששון ושמחה וגו'

for later verses declare, “Let me hear gladness and joy….,”

ורוח נדיבה תסמכני וגו'

and “uphold me with a spirit of magnanimity….”;

ומשום שצריך להיות כל ימיו בתשובה עילאה, שהיא בשמחה רבה כנ"ל

moreover, “Throughout one's days one should experience teshuvah [ila'ah],” [a manner of repentance] that is marked by great joy, as noted above.

How, then, are we to understand that “my sin is always before me”?

אלא נגדי דייקא

Rather, [the term used for “before me” is] specifically negdi, which implies being opposite, but at a certain distance,

כמו: ואתה תתיצב מנגד, מנגד סביב לאהל מועד יחנו

as in the verse that says, “You shall stand at a distance (mineged)”; or: “at a distance (mineged) around the Tent of Assembly shall they camp.”

ופירש רש"י מרחוק

Rashi defines the above term lit., “opposite” as “at a distance.”

Thus, one should always retain an awareness of his having sinned — but “at a distance,” i.e., at the back of his mind.

והמכוון רק לבלתי רום לבבו

Hence, the intention [of our verse] is merely that one's heart should not grow haughty,

ולהיות שפל רוח בפני כל האדם

and that he be humble of spirit before all men,

כשהיה לזכרון בין עיניו שחטא נגד ה'

because there will be a remembrance between his eyes that he has sinned before G‑d.

Memories of past sin are thus not intended to engender despondency, G‑d forbid.

ואדרבה, לענין השמחה, יועיל זכרון החטא ביתר שאת

In fact, as far as joy is concerned, the remembrance of one's past sins will be especially effective

בכדי לקבל בשמחה כל המאורעות המתרגשות ובאות

in encouraging happiness in the face of whatever misfortunes threaten to overtake him,

בין מן השמים בין על ידי הבריות

whether from heaven or through the agency of man,

בדיבור או במעשה

whether in speech or in deed.

Any such physical or verbal offense will be accepted with equanimity when one recalls that he has sinned in the past, and that his present afflictions in fact assist in his atonement.

(וזו עצה טובה להנצל מכעס וכל מיני קפידא וכו')

(This [humility on account of one's imperfect record] is good counsel that enables a man to be immune to becoming angry or taking offense in any way…..)

וכמאמר רז"ל: הנעלבים ואינן עולבין

As our Sages declare, “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn,

שומעים חרפתם ואין משיבים

who hear their insult and do not retort,

עושים מאהבה ושמחים ביסורים וכו'

who perform out of love and are happy in affliction, [concerning them does Scripture say, `Those who love Him [shall be] like the sun rising in all its might'].”

Three distinct categories are mentioned here, in ascending order: “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn” do respond to the insults of others, but do not retaliate in kind. Those of the second category “hear their insult and do not retort” at all. Those of the third category actually “are happy in affliction” — because they remember their past sins, and are glad to accept their present suffering as a means of penance.

וכל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירים לו על כל פשעיו

Moreover, “whoever passes over his feelings, all his sins are passed over.”

Igeret HaTeshuva ,

Chapter 12

The Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter that although a penitent should always remember his past sins, his recollection should not lead to a state of ongoing depression or shame; such an attitude would cripple the cardinal principle of serving G‑d with joy. Rather, he should recall his past misdeeds “from afar” — only insofar as they will teach him to be humble before all men.

Moreover, these memories will actually enhance the joy of his Divine service, for they will cause him to accept with happy equanimity all manner of pain and suffering, be it verbal or physical, whether visited upon him from Above or through mortal agents.

In this, the concluding chapter of Iggeret HaTeshuvah, the Alter Rebbe explains why these afflictions cause the penitent joy.

וטעם השמחה ביסורי הגוף

The reason for joy in the suffering of the body

Note of the Rebbe: “The focus of this entire explanation is that the difference [between physical and spiritual suffering] and the benefit [of physical suffering] are twofold, quantitative and qualitative. Afflictions of the body, as opposed to afflictions of the soul; physical fire is only one-sixtieth of the fire of Gehinnom; a shadow's movement of a handsbreadth on earth is equivalent to thousands of miles.”

לפי שהיא טובה גדולה ועצומה לנפש החוטאת

is that it is a great and potent favor for the sinning soul,

Note of the Rebbe: “The two terms [‘great’ and ‘potent’] quite possibly allude to [the] extent and quality [of the favor].”

למרקה בעולם הזה

to cleanse it in This World,

Note of the Rebbe: “Thus enabling the soul to leave this world in the same [pure] state as when it entered it.”

ולהצילה מהמירוק בגיהנם

and to spare it from being scoured in Gehinnom.

Note of the Rebbe: “This seems to imply yet another matter.”

(בפרט בדורותינו אלה

(This is particularly true in these generations of ours,

שאין ביכולת להתענות כפי מספר כל הצומות שבתיקוני תשובה מהאריז"ל

when one cannot undertake all the fasts prescribed in the penances of the AriZal, as mentioned earlier on in chapter 3,

הצריכות למירוק הנפש, להצילה ממירוק בגיהנם)

fasts imperative for the cleansing of the soul, to rescue it from the cleansing of Gehinnom.)

וכמו שכתוב הרמב"ן ז"ל בהקדמה לפירוש לאיוב, שאפילו יסורים של איוב ע' שנה, אין להן ערך כלל ליסורי הנפש שעה אחת בגיהנם

As Nachmanides writes, in the Introduction to his Commentary on Job, that even the sufferings of Job for seventy years bear absolutely no comparison to the suffering of a soul for even one hour in Gehinnom,

כי אש אחד מששים וכו'

for “[physical] fire is but one sixtieth [of the fire of Gehinnom].”

אלא לפי שעולם הזה חסד יבנה

It is only that this “world is built by kindness,”

וביסורין קלין בעולם הזה, ניצול מדינים קשים של עולם הבא

for which reason through mild suffering in This World one is saved from severe judgments in the Coming World.

כמשל הילוך והעתקת הצל בארץ טפח

This is analogous to the movement of a shadow on earth of a handsbreadth,

לפי הילוך גלגל השמש ברקיע אלפים מילין וכו'

which equals the sun's movement in the heaven of thousands of miles…

I.e., the sun's movement of thousands of miles causes a corresponding movement of but a few inches of shadow].

ויתר על כן לאין קץ הוא בנמשל

Infinitely more so is this true in the parallel,

בבחינת השתלשלות העולמות מרום המעלות עד עולם הזה הגשמי

in the descent of the worlds from level to level, from the most exalted heights until this physical world.

The analogy may be understood as follows. Any event that transpires in this world results from a parallel but far more ethereal event that “previously” took place in the spiritually exalted worlds. Thus, the effect of an event in this physical world is much greater in those lofty worlds.

וכנודע ממה שכתוב בזהר הקדוש, מענין עליות עולמות העליונים

We see this in the teachings of the Zohar on the elevation of the higher worlds

באתערותא דלתתא, בהקרבת עוף אחד בן יונה או תור על גבי המזבח, או קומץ מנחה

as a result of the spiritual arousal initiated by man below through his offering of one fowl, a dove or pigeon, or a handful of meal, on the altar.

The Zohar teaches that offering but one such representative creature from the animal world or but one such representative item from the vegetative world, elevates all the spiritual realms.

וכן הוא בכל המצות מעשיות, כנודע מהאריז"ל

Such are the effects of all the commandments requiring practical performance, as is known from the AriZal.

Mitzvot performed in this world with physical objects, such as tzitzit made of wool or the passages of the tefillin written on parchment, set up far-reaching reverberations in the exalted spiritual worlds.

וזה שאמרו רז"ל על פסוק: והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים

This too is our Sages' comment on the verse, “Sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy” —

אדם מקדש עצמו מעט מלמטה, מקדשין אותו הרבה מלמעלה וכו'

“Man sanctifies himself [only] a little i.e.,” comments the Rebbe, ‘in quantity’ below i.e.,“ comments the Rebbe, ‘in quality’, and he becomes sanctified in great measure from Above…”

(וכמו שכתוב לעיל בענין אשר קדשנו במצותיו וכו' בחינת סובב כל עלמין וכו')

(It was thus noted above in reference to the phrase, “Who sanctified us with His commandments…,” [that Israel's sanctification through mitzvot is bound up with the Infinite life- force that] encompasses and transcends all worlds…)

Thus, the physical performance of a Divine commandment in this world, draws down upon the individual holiness not only from the most lofty spiritual worlds, but also from the degree of G‑dliness that transcends worlds.

וככה ממש הוא בענין שכר ועונש

Precisely so is it in reference to reward and punishment.

The reward for the performance of a mitzvah infinitely surpasses the physical deed itself; the punishment as well, suffered by an individual in this world for his sins, substitutes for a far greater measure of punishment that the person would have undergone had it been meted out in the Coming World.

כמאמר רז"ל: שכר מצוה מצוה וכו'

As our Sages say, “The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah…”;

chanoch adds: i learned this as "The reward of a Mitzvah is another Mitzcah...

[I.e., the reward is the spiritual illumination that is drawn down through the fulfillment of the mitzvah itself],

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as discussed elsewhere.

Since it has just been explained that the performance of a mitzvah draws down as a reward Divine illumination that utterly transcends all worlds, it follows that the reward for the mitzvah in the loftier spiritual worlds is infinitely higher than the physical action performed here below.

ודעת לנבון נקל

This knowledge is elementary to the discerning,

ומשכיל על דבר ימצא טוב

and those with intelligence in this matter will discover good.