Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 3, Class 1

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 3, Class 1


Though fasting is not at all necessary for attaining atonement, it was explained above that nevertheless, it has a salutary effect as a substitute for the olah offering. In Temple times, this sacrifice was offered (even) for transgressing a positive command in order to make the former offender once again acceptable and beloved of G‑d. Accordingly, the Arizal derived from the Kabbalah the number of fasts to be undertaken for numerous transgressions, even those that are not subject to the punishment of excision or death by Divine decree.

The latter Mussar sages—those who lived after the Arizalwere divided in their opinions about one who repeated a sin many times.

וְהִנֵּה, חַכְמֵי הַמּוּסָר הָאַחֲרוֹנִים נֶחְלְקוּ בְּמִי שֶׁחָטָא חֵטְא אֶחָד פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת;

Some contend that he must fast the number of fasts appropriate to that sin according to the number of transgressions.

דְּיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת מִסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת לְאוֹתוֹ חֵטְא פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת כְּפִי הַמִּסְפָּר אֲשֶׁר חָטָא;

For example, the number of fasts prescribed in the penances of the Arizal for wasteful emission of semen is eighty-four.

כְּגוֹן הַמּוֹצִיא זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה, שֶׁמִּסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת הַמְפוֹרָשׁ בְּתִיקּוּנֵי תְּשׁוּבָה מֵהָאֲרִיזַ”ל הֵן פ”ד תַּעֲנִיּוֹת,

If someone commits this sin ten or twenty times, say, he must fast ten or twenty times eighty-four, and so on in all instances.

וְאִם חָטָא בָּזֶה עֶשֶׂר אוֹ עֶשְׂרִים פְּעָמִים, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל – צָרִיךְ לְהִתְעַנוֹת עֶשֶׂר אוֹ עֶשְׂרִים פְּעָמִים פ”ד, וְכֵן לְעוֹלָם,

This is comparable to the chatat offering (Note by the Rebbe: “i.e., all the chatat offerings”) required for every instance of violation.

דּוּמְיָא דְּקָרְבַּן חַטָּאת, שֶׁחַיָּיב לְהָבִיא עַל כָּל פַּעַם וּפַעַם;

Others compare these fasts to the olah offering brought for neglect of a positive command.1

וְיֵשׁ מְדַמִּין עִנְיָן זֶה לְקָרְבַּן עוֹלָה הַבָּאָה עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה,

The violation of a number of positive commands is atoned for, and the individual finds favor in G‑d’s eyes by one olah, as the Talmud explains in Tractate Zevachim, ch. 1.2

דַּאֲפִילוּ עָבַר עַל כַּמָּה מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה – מִתְכַּפֵּר בְּעוֹלָה אַחַת, כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דִזְבָחִים.

The accepted decision in this dispute is to undertake three times the number of fasts prescribed for that particular sin, i.e., 252 fasts (three times eighty-four) for wasteful emission and similarly for other sins oft repeated.

וְהַכְרָעָה הַמְקוּבֶּלֶת בָּזֶה, לְהִתְעַנּוֹת ג’ פְּעָמִים כְּפִי מִסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת דְּחֵטְא זֶה, דְּהַיְינוּ, רנ”ב צוֹמוֹת עַל הוֹצָאוֹת שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה, וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר חֲטָאִים וַעֲוֹנוֹת.

This is based on a teaching in the Zohar, at the end of Parashat Noach3: “As soon as mortal man sins once against the Holy One, blessed be He, he makes an impression [Above; should he sin a second time, the impact of his sin is even greater];

וְהַטַּעַם הוּא, עַל פִּי מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ סוֹף פָּרָשַׁת נֹחַ: “כֵּיוָן דְּחָב בַּר נַשׁ קַמֵּי קוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא זִמְנָא חֲדָא עָבִיד רְשִׁימוּ כוּ’,

the third time he commits the sin, the stain penetrates from one side through the other…”;

זִמְנָא תְּלִיתָאָה אִתְפַּשֵּׁט הַהוּא כִּתְמָא מִסִּטְרָא דָא לְסִטְרָא דָא כוּ’”.

therefore, the number of fasts ought also be three.

לְכָךְ – צָרִיךְ מִסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת גַּם כֵּן ג’ פְּעָמִים וְכוּ’.




 1. Note by the Rebbe: “As distinct from other olahofferings; see the various types of offerings in Maimonides’ preface to his Commentary on the Mishnayot on the order of Kodshim.”

2. 5b, 6a, 7b.

3. 73b.

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