Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 5, Class 2

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 5, Class 2


The reason is that sins oppose the will of the Supreme One, Who gives life to all,

וְהַטַּעַם, לְפִי שֶׁהֵם נֶגֶד רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְחַיֶּה אֶת הַכֹּל,

as in the verse, “Whatever G‑d wills, He has done in heaven and earth.”11

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “כֹּל אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ ה’ עָשָׂה בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ”

(12It has been noted above that [the supreme will] is the source of the sustenance issuing from the Tetragrammaton and is represented in the “thorn” atop the letter yud.)

(וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל, שֶׁהוּא מְקוֹר הַשְׁפָּעַת שֵׁם הַוָיָ’, וְנִרְמָז בְּקוֹצוֹ שֶׁל יוּ”ד).

Inasmuch as the Tetragrammaton sustains all of creation, it follows that sins, which act in opposition to it, also oppose and conceal the Divine life-force. Sins are thus capable of preventing the Divine “breath” (concerning which it is written “He blew”) from reaching man.

This, then, is the meaning of excision:

וְזֶהוּ עִנְיַן הַכָּרֵת,

the “rope” drawn from the final hey in the Four-Letter Name of G‑d is severed, cut off.

שֶׁנִּכְרָת וְנִפְסָק חֶבֶל הַהַמְשָׁכָה מִשֵּׁם הַוָיָ’ בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁנִּמְשְׁכָה מֵהֵ”א תַּתָּאָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

As a result, the soul clothed within the body is unable to receive vitality from its source in that Divine Name. During those times when the Jewish people received their vitality only from the “side” of holiness (as, for example, during the period of the Temple, as the Alter Rebbe will say in the next chapter), the lack of this life-force led to physical death.

As the verse says in Parashat Emor: “That soul shall be cut off from before My face; I am G‑d.”13

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּפָרָשַׁת אֱמוֹר: “וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִיא מִלְּפָנַי, אֲנִי ה’” –

The verse here uses the Tetragrammaton in referring to G‑d. Excision thus involves being sundered from the internal aspect of G‑dliness. It is this that the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

The expression chosen is “from before My face”; i.e., the soul is excised from the innermost aspect of G‑dliness, the Tetragrammaton.

“מִלְּפָנַי” דַּיְיקָא.

Other sins that do not incur excision

וּבִשְׁאָר עֲבֵירוֹת שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶן כָּרֵת –

do cause at least a defect in the soul, in the sense of the defect or nick that invalidates a blade for ritual slaughter.

עַל כָּל פָּנִים הֵן פּוֹגְמִין הַנֶּפֶשׁ, כַּנּוֹדָע; וּפְגַם, הוּא מִלְּשׁוֹן פְּגִימַת הַסַּכִּין.

As with the defective blade, a sin causes something to be lacking in the ropelike flow of life-force from the Tetragrammaton downward to the soul, as is now explained.

This is analogous to a thick rope woven of 613 thin strands.

וְהוּא עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, מֵחֶבֶל עָב שָׁזוּר מִתַּרְיַ”ג חֲבָלִים דַּקִּים,

So, too, the “rope” of the downward flow mentioned above is comprised of the 613 mitzvot,14 each mitzvah being an individual, thin strand.

כָּכָה חֶבֶל הַהַמְשָׁכָה הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל – כָּלוּל מִתַּרְיַ”ג מִצְוֹת,

When one violates one of them, G‑d forbid, a thin strand consisting of that particular commandment is severed….

וּכְשֶׁעוֹבֵר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם עַל אַחַת מֵהֵנָּה – נִפְסָק חֶבֶל הַדַּק וְכוּ’.

Should an individual violate many commandments, G‑d forbid, then many strands are severed, and the “rope” is grievously weakened. Sins punishable by excision (or death by Divine agency) cause the entire “rope” to be severed, heaven forfend.

However, even if one has incurred excision or death, there yet remains an impression within him of his Divine soul,

אַךְ גַּם בְּחַיָּיב כָּרֵת וּמִיתָה נִשְׁאָר עֲדַיִין בּוֹ הָרְשִׁימוּ מִנַּפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית,

and through this, he may live until fifty (in the case of excision) or sixty years (in the case of death by Divine agency), but no more.

וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה יָכוֹל לִחְיוֹת עַד נ’ אוֹ ס’ שָׁנָה וְלֹא יוֹתֵר

(15As to the statement attributed to the Arizal that the makif, a transcendent level of life-force, enters such an individual, and so on,

(וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בְּשֵׁם הָאֲרִיזַ”ל שֶׁנִּכְנְסָה בּוֹ בְּחִינַת הַמַּקִּיף וְכוּ’ –

Though unable to receive vitality from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, he is still able to receive vitality from this transcendent (lit., “encompassing”) level of G‑dliness. If this is indeed so, why can he not live longer than fifty or sixty years?

this is irrelevant to the life of the physical body,16 which cannot survive once there remains no vestige of the Divine soul,

אֵינוֹ עִנְיָן לְחַיֵּי גַּשְׁמִיּוּת הַגּוּף,

and applies only until fifty years,

וּמַיְירִי עַד נ’ שָׁנָה,

I.e., the transcendent level is also found within an individual only so long as he is able to remain alive by virtue of the impression of the Divine soul that is still within his body.

or to the contemporary period, as will be noted.)

אוֹ בִּזְמַן הַזֶּה – כְּדִלְקַמָּן):

In this era, when a Jew’s vitality reaches him through becoming clothed in unholy media, it is possible for a person to live even after his soul has been sundered from its source in the Four-Letter Name of G‑d. This is why it is now possible for someone liable to excision or death by Divine agency to live longer than fifty or sixty years. And during this time, the holy life-force which must be found within a Jew is received from the transcendent level, as the Arizal teaches.




 11. Psalms 135:6.

12. Parentheses are in the original text.

13. Leviticus 22:3.

14. The Rebbe notes that the Alter Rebbe here offers a remarkably novel thought—that every Jew receives vitality in this world from all 613 mitzvot, even though the commandments given to Kohanim do not apply to commoners, many commandments cannot be performed simultaneously, and the like. Possibly, continues the Rebbe, this may be understood in light of the Alter Rebbe’s explanation in Kuntres Acharon in the essay that begins, “To Understand the Details of the Laws…” (p. 159b in the standard edition of the Tanya). [There, the Alter Rebbe writes that even the laws that perhaps never have practical application derive from supernal wisdom.]

15. Parentheses are in the original text.

16. At this point, the Rebbe refers the reader to Likkutei Torah, Devarim 62c, where the Alter Rebbe explains that excision applies only to the level of “Yaakov” within the soul but not to the level of “Yisrael.” He also cites Likkutei Torah, Devarim 83b, where the Alter Rebbe speaks of one who has incurred excision. Though of him it is written, “For my father and mother have forsaken me,” yet the continuation of the same verse (Psalms 27:10) also applies to him: “…but G‑d has taken me in.” The encompassing level of the soul remains intact. Though within his soul, the Jew’s innate love of G‑d is not manifest (“does not shed light”), yet in him, too, this love is still present, though concealed.

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