Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 3, Class 3

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


Nevertheless, though it has just been stated that in contemporary generations, when excessive fasting causes illness and pain, the fasts of penance should be substituted by charity, every man of spirit who desires to be close to G‑d, to amend his nefesh9 (his soul), to restore it to G‑d with the finest and most preferred repentance, should be stringent with himself.

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, כָּל בַּעַל נֶפֶשׁ הֶחָפֵץ קִרְבַת ה’, לְתַקֵּן נַפְשׁוֹ לַהֲשִׁיבָהּ אֶל ה’ בִּתְשׁוּבָה מְעוּלָּה מִן הַמּוּבְחָר – יַחְמִיר עַל עַצְמוֹ

He should complete, at least once during his lifetime, the number of fasts for every grave sin incurring death at least, if only death by Divine agency.

לְהַשְׁלִים עַל כָּל פָּנִים פַּעַם אַחַת כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּיו מִסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת לְכָל עָוֹן וְעָוֹן מֵעֲוֹנוֹת הַחֲמוּרִים שֶׁחַיָּיבִין עֲלֵיהֶם מִיתָה עַל כָּל פָּנִים, וַאֲפִילוּ בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם בִּלְבַד,

For example, for wasteful emission, [he should undergo the series of] eighty-four fasts once in his life.

כְּגוֹן לְהוֹצָאוֹת זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה פ”ד צוֹמוֹת פַּעַם אַחַת בִּימֵי חַיָּיו.

He may postpone the fasts until the short winter days and fast some ten days or less, for example, in one winter,

וְיָכוֹל לִדְחוֹתָן לַיָּמִים הַקְּצָרִים בַּחוֹרֶף, וְיִתְעַנֶּה כְּעֶשֶׂר תַּעֲנִיּוֹת עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל בְּחוֹרֶף אֶחָד, אוֹ פָּחוֹת,

and complete the series of eighty-four in nine or more years, according to his stamina.

וְיִגְמוֹר מִסְפַּר הַפ”ד צוֹמוֹת בְּט’ שָׁנִים, אוֹ יוֹתֵר – כְּפִי כֹחוֹ

(10Besides, he may also eat a little [until] about three hours before sunrise, and this would still be considered a fast, if he so stipulated.)

(וְגַם, יָכוֹל לֶאֱכוֹל מְעַט כְּג’ שָׁעוֹת לִפְנֵי נֵץ הַחַמָּה, וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן נֶחְשָׁב לְתַעֲנִית אִם הִתְנָה כֵּן).

For the completion of the abovementioned 252 fasts—three times eighty-four, this being the accepted arbitration in the above difference of opinion so that one undertakes three times the number of fasts prescribed for this specific sin, even if it was committed many times—he may fast another four times eighty-four only until past noon;

וּלְתַשְׁלוּם רנ”ב צוֹמוֹת כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל – יִתְעַנֶּה עוֹד ד’ פְּעָמִים פ”ד עַד אַחַר חֲצוֹת הַיּוֹם בִּלְבַד,

this, too, the Jerusalem Talmud11 considers a fast. In this context, moreover, two half-days are reckoned as one full day.

דְּמִיחְשַׁב גַּם כֵּן תַּעֲנִית בִּירוּשַׁלְמִי, וּב’ חֲצָאֵי יוֹם נֶחְשָׁבִים לוֹ לְיוֹם אֶחָד לְעִנְיָן זֶה.

This approach applies to other, similar sins as well,

וְכֵן לִשְׁאָר עֲוֹנוֹת כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן,

Until now, the Alter Rebbe addressed himself to those sins which at least incur death by Divine agency. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that this approach also applies to sins which do not incur such a harsh penalty but are similarly grave—“similar sins”—such as those which are actually comparable to idolatry, murder, and so on, as mentioned in ch. 7 below. Concerning these sins as well, the Alter Rebbe is saying here, one should be stringent and undertake the required number of fasts at least once in his lifetime.

for each heart knows its own anguish and desires its vindication.

אֲשֶׁר כָּל “לֵב יוֹדֵעַ מָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ”, וְחָפֵץ בְּהִצָּדְקָהּ.




9. Note by the Rebbe: “In this and all similar contexts, the term specifically used is nefesh [as distinct from the other four terms for the various levels of the soul]—possibly in view of the statement in the Zohar III (24b) and Sefer Hagilgulim, et. al., that ‘it is specifically the level of nefesh that sins.’”

10. Parentheses are in the original text.

11. Nedarim 8:1. 

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