Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 3, Class 2

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 3, Class 2


However, all this4 applies to the strong and robust, whose physical health would not be harmed at all by repeated fasts, as in the generations of yore.

אָכֵן, כָּל זֶה בְּאָדָם חָזָק וּבָרִיא, שֶׁאֵין רִיבּוּי הַצּוֹמוֹת מַזִּיק לוֹ כְּלָל לִבְרִיאוּת גּוּפוֹ, וּכְמוֹ בַּדּוֹרוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנִים.

But whoever would be affected by many fasts and might thereby suffer illness or pain, G‑d forbid, as in contemporary generations,

אֲבָל מִי שֶׁרִיבּוּי הַצּוֹמוֹת מַזִּיק לוֹ, שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיּוּכַל לָבֹא לִידֵי חוֹלִי אוֹ מֵיחוֹשׁ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, כְּמוֹ בְּדוֹרוֹתֵינוּ אֵלֶּה,

is forbidden to undertake numerous fasts, even for sins punishable by excision or execution, and certainly not for [violation of] the positive and prohibitive commands that do not involve excision.

אָסוּר לוֹ לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּתַעֲנִיּוֹת אֲפִילוּ עַל כְּרֵיתוֹת וּמִיתוֹת בֵּית־דִּין, וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן עַל מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה וּמִצְוֹת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶן כָּרֵת,

Instead, [the measure of fasting is] the personal estimate of what will not harm him at all.

אֶלָּא כְּפִי אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁעֵר בְּנַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁבְּוַדַּאי לֹא יַזִּיק לוֹ כְּלָל.

For even in those early generations, in the times of the Tannaim and Amoraim, only the robust who could mortify themselves fasted so frequently.

כִּי אֲפִילוּ בַּדּוֹרוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנִים, בִּימֵי תַּנָּאִים וְאַמוֹרָאִים – לֹא הָיוּ מִתְעַנִּין בִּכְהַאי גַּוְנָא, אֶלָּא הַבְּרִיאִים, דְּמָצוּ לְצַעוּרֵי נַפְשַׁיְיהוּ;

But whoever cannot fast yet does so is called a “sinner” in Tractate Taanit, ch. 1.5

וּדְלָא מָצִי לְצַעוּרֵי נַפְשֵׁיהּ וּמִתְעַנֶּה – נִקְרָא “חוֹטֵא” בַּגְּמָרָא פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דְתַעֲנִית,

This applies even to one who fasts for specifically known sins, as Rashi explains there,

וַאֲפִילוּ מִתְעַנֶּה עַל עֲבֵירוֹת שֶׁבְּיָדוֹ כִּדְפֵירֵשׁ רַשִׁ”י שָׁם,

The very same author of the opinion that he who fasts frequently is considered “holy” because (as Rashi explains) his sins are thereby expunged goes on to state that he is considered a sinner if he cannot fast yet does so.

and it is written in Tractate Zevachim, ch. 1,6 that “there is no one of Israel who is not guilty of [transgressing] a positive commandment…,”

וְכִדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דִזְבָחִים, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ אָדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְחוּיָּיב עֲשֵׂה וְכוּ’.

Thus, though there are always sins for which one should fast, one should do so only if this will in no way impair his health; otherwise, he is considered a sinner,

especially if he is a student of the Torah, in which case he is doubly punished,

וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן מִי שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל תּוֹרָה, שֶׁחוֹטֵא וְנֶעֱנָשׁ בְּכִפְלַיִים,

for the weakness resulting from his fast prevents him from studying Torah properly.

כִּי מֵחֲמַת חֲלִישׁוּת הַתַּעֲנִית לֹא יוּכַל לַעֲסוֹק בָּהּ כָּרָאוּי.

What, then, is his remedy?

אֶלָּא מַאי תַּקַּנְתֵּיהּ?

I.e., what is such a person to do in order to be beloved by his Creator as he was before his sin?

He should comply with the verse that says, “Redeem your sin with charity.”7

כְּדִכְתִיב: “וַחֲטָאָךְ בְּצִדְקָה פְרוּק”;

And, indeed, the codifiers of Torah law specified that one should donate the equivalent of eighteen [large Polish] coins called “gedolim Polish” for each day of repentance.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתְבוּ הַפּוֹסְקִים, לִיתֵּן בְּעַד כָּל יוֹם תַּעֲנִית שֶׁל תְּשׁוּבָה – עֵרֶךְ ח”י גְּדוֹלִים פּוֹלִישׁ וְכוּ’,

The wealthy should add to this amount for the redemption of each fast day according to his means,

וְהֶעָשִׁיר יוֹסִיף לְפִי עָשְׁרוֹ וְכוּ’,

as stated in Magen Avraham in the Laws of Fasts.8

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הַמָּגֵן־אַבְרָהָם הִלְכוֹת תַּעֲנִית:




4. Note by the Rebbe: “Concerning all the laws about to be stated, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 571 and its commentaries; the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Nizkei Guf Venefesh, subsection 4.”

5. Note by the Rebbe: “End of p. 11a; see also Rambam,Hilchot Deot, beg. of ch. 3, and commentators, ad loc.”

6. 7a, and see Rashi there.

7. Daniel 4:24.

8. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 568:12 and commentaries.

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