Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 2, Class 2

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 2, Class 2


Repentance, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the opening chapter, is in no way synonymous with fasting for a sin that one has committed; repentance merely entails abandoning the sin for all time. This is so even with regard to transgressions—those punishable by excision or by execution—whose atonement becomes complete through suffering. Even in these instances, the suffering is not intended to be self-inflicted through fasting but is brought on from Above.

However, all this refers to atonement and forgiveness of the sin—[the offender] is pardoned completely for having violated the command of the King once he has repented fully.

אַךְ כָּל זֶה לְעִנְיַן כַּפָּרָה וּמְחִילַת הֶעָוֹן, שֶׁנִּמְחָל לוֹ לְגַמְרֵי מַה שֶּׁעָבַר עַל מִצְוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ כְּשֶׁעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה,

Atonement and forgiveness thus do not require fasting. If the individual repents fully:

No charge nor semblance of an accusation is mentioned against him on the day of judgment so that he should be punished for his sin, G‑d forbid, in the World to Come; in his trial there, he is completely exonerated.

וְאֵין מַזְכִּירִין לוֹ דָּבָר וַחֲצִי דָּבָר בְּיוֹם הַדִּין לְעָנְשׁוֹ עַל זֶה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם־הַבָּא, וְנִפְטָר לְגַמְרֵי מִן הַדִּין בָּעוֹלָם־הַבָּא.

Nonetheless, in order that he should be acceptable before G‑d, as beloved of Him as before the sin so that his Creator might derive delight from his service—

אָמְנָם, שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְרָצוֹן לִפְנֵי ה’ וּמְרוּצֶּה וְחָבִיב לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ כְּקוֹדֶם הַחֵטְא, לִהְיוֹת נַחַת רוּחַ לְקוֹנוֹ מֵעֲבוֹדָתוֹ –

[in past times,] he would bring an Olah offering,1 in addition to his repentance,

הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְהָבִיא קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה

even for [transgressing] an ordinary positive commandment that involves no excision or execution.

אֲפִילוּ עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה קַלָּה שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ כָּרֵת וּמִיתַת בֵּית־דִּין,

In this spirit, our Sages in Torat Kohanim interpret the verse,2 “It shall be acceptable for him,”—that the olah offering causes a person who violated a positive command to become acceptable to G-d.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁדָּרְשׁוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה בְּתוֹרַת כֹּהֲנִים עַל פָּסוּק “וְנִרְצָה לוֹ”;

and thus we find in the Talmud, in the first chapter of Zevachim,3 that the Olah offering atones for [the violation of] positive commandments; it is a “gift” [that is offered] after one has repented and been pardoned his punishment.

וְכִדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דִזְבָחִים, דְּעוֹלָה מְכַפֶּרֶת עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה, וְהִיא דוֹרוֹן לְאַחַר שֶׁעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה וְנִמְחַל לוֹ הָעוֹנֶשׁ.

This is like the case of a man who displeased his king, appeased him through intercessors, and was forgiven by him;

וּכְאָדָם שֶׁסָּרַח בַּמֶּלֶךְ וּפִיְּיסוֹ עַל־יְדֵי פְּרַקְלִיטִין וּמָחַל לוֹ,

still, he will send a gift so that the king might consent that he appear again before his sovereign.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, שׁוֹלֵחַ דּוֹרוֹן וּמִנְחָה לְפָנָיו שֶׁיִּתְרַצֶּה לוֹ לִרְאוֹת פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ

The olah offering was similarly brought as a gift to G‑d after the offender had repented and had been granted a pardon in order that he once again find favor in His eyes and be beloved by Him as before the sin.

(4The expression “atones,” quoted from the Talmud and in the verse,5 “It shall be acceptable for him to atone for him,”

(וּלְשׁוֹן “מְכַפֶּרֶת”, וְכֵן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה “וְנִרְצָה לוֹ לְכַפֵּר עָלָיו” –

does not refer to the soul’s atonement for the sin, for this is accomplished through repentance,

אֵין זוֹ כַּפָּרַת נַפְשׁוֹ,

but rather (so to speak) his restoration before G‑d so that he will bring his Creator gratification; no vestige of the sin will remain, and the former offender will be beloved of G‑d as before,

אֶלָּא לְכַפֵּר לִפְנֵי ה’ לִהְיוֹת נַחַת רוּחַ לְקוֹנוֹ,

as the Talmud teaches there—that once the person has been pardoned, then comes the gift of the olah offering,

כִּדְאִיתָא שָׁם בַּגְּמָרָא,

and as the verse states: “It shall be perfect so that it be acceptable.”6)



1. Leviticus 1:3.

2. Loc. cit., v. 4.

3. 7b.

4. Parentheses appear in the original.

5. Loc. cit., v. 4.

6. Leviticus 22:21.

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