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Tanya for Wednesday, 13 Tamuz, 5781 - June 23, 2021

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 13 Tamuz

12 Tamuz, 5781 - June 22, 202114 Tamuz, 5781 - June 24, 2021

Chapter Four

[Certain penitential fasts, then, are to be actually undertaken, while others are to be redeemed through charity].

However, all we have said refers to the culmination of the atonement - to polishing the soul clean before G-d, [so that no vestige of former sin remains, after repentance], as cited above [1] from the Talmud, chapter 1 of Zevachim, where the olah sacrifice brought for transgressing a positive command is described as the gift offered [to the offended party] after an intercessor's successful plea.

[The above-mentioned fasts (or their counterpart in charity) serve a similar function].

But the beginning of the mitzvah of teshuvah and its core is a true and wholehearted return to G-d.

[As will soon become apparent, this "return (lit.:) until G-d" means returning until the point that one has restored completeness to Havayah, the Four-Letter Name of G-d, that is to be found within every Jewish soul.

The letters that comprise the Tetragrammaton are (in descending order) yud and hei, and vav and hei].

This must now be explained thoroughly and comprehensively.

Let us begin with the Zohar's interpretation [2] of teshuvah according to Sod, [the mystical approach to the Torah]:

"[Teshuvah is] tashuv hei [`the hei is to be returned.'

The function of teshuvah is to return the letter hei of the Divine Name Havayah - to reattach it to the level represented by the letter that precedes it, just as it was attached to it before the individual sinned].

[The reconnection of] the latter hei [to the preceding letter vav] is teshuvah tata'ah (`lower-level teshuvah');

[The reconnection of] the former hei [to the preceding letter yud] is teshuvah ila'ah (`higher-level teshuvah')."

We must also note that the Zohar states several times [3] that teshuvah is ineffective for violation of the covenant and for the wasteful emission of semen.

This is most astonishing, for [4] "nothing can stand in the way of teshuvah, even idolatry, incest, and so on."

[Jews are commanded to give up their lives rather than transgress these prohibitions, yet repentance atones even for them.

How, then, can it be that there are other sins for which repentance is ineffective]?

The Reishit Chochmah explains [5] that the intention of the Zohar is that though teshuvah tata'ah [the conventional level of repentance] is not effective, teshuvah ila'ah is.

To grasp even a minute glimmer [6] of this, we must preface what Scripture and our Sages say about [what is entailed by] excision and death by divine agency.

A violator of a sin punishable by excision would actually [7] die before his fiftieth year. [8]

In the case of death by divine agency he would actually [9] die before sixty, like the prophet Chananiah ben Azur in Jeremiah. [10]

[As a result of his false prophecy, G-d told him, "I shall banish you from the face of the earth...." This resulted in his actual death].

[11] (Indeed, there have been instances in which the punishment of death by divine agency was also meted out instantly, as with Er and Onan.)

[This involved a sin incurring death by divine agency. [12]

In any event, both Scripture and the Sages attest that those guilty of sins punishable by excision or death by divine agency would actually die before they reached the age of fifty or sixty.

This leads to the following question]:

But in every generation there are so many individuals liable to excision and death who nevertheless enjoy extended and pleasant [13] days and years!?



  1. (Back to text) Beginning of chapter 2 ... See also Likutei Sichot, Vol. XIX, p. 401, note 12, and the marginal comment on this note.

  2. (Back to text) III, 122a.

  3. (Back to text) Zohar I, 60a, 219b; Zohar II, 214b.

  4. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Rambam, conclusion of chapter 3 of Hilchot Teshuvah, following Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1; Zohar Chadash, conclusion of Parshat Bereishit."

  5. (Back to text) Shaar HaKedushah, chapter 17.

  6. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Perhaps this expression is used (as opposed to, say, me-at min ha-me-at) because the former term (me-at) suggests that the extent of understanding is minute, while the latter term (miz-er) suggests that qualitatively too this understanding is a mere glimmer."

  7. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Possibly the Alter Rebbe's intention here is to negate the opinion of the Ramban at the end of Parshat Acharei."

    The Ramban says there that it is sometimes possible that violators liable to excision "are not punished by physical excision; sometimes they may live to a ripe old age."

    In specifying here that they would "actually" die, the Alter Rebbe evidently seeks to negate this opinion.

  8. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "As in Yerushalmi, Bikkurim, beginning of chapter 2, as explained in Tosafot, s.v. karet, Shabbat 25a."

  9. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "As above" - i.e., as in footnote 7.

  10. (Back to text) Chapter 28.

  11. (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original text.

  12. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "See above, end of chapter 1."

  13. (Back to text) Asked why the Alter Rebbe added the word "pleasant", the Rebbe Shlita replied that this was done "in order to rule out the (labored) interpretation that this punishment was undergone by virtue of their having suffered poverty or the like, which is also called `death' in Scripture (Shmot 4:19) and in Rabbinic terminology (quoted in Rashi, ad loc.)."

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