Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 6, Class 1

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 6, Class 1


The Alter Rebbe opened the fourth chapter by beginning to explain the concept of repentance according to the mystical approach to the Torah. He prefaced his commentary by noting that according to Scripture and our Sages, a person who committed a sin punishable by excision would actually die before his fiftieth year while one who committed a sin punishable by death by Divine agency would actually die before his sixtieth year.

The Alter Rebbe thereupon posed the following question: How is it, he asked, that “in every generation, there are so many individuals liable to excision and death [by Divine agency] who nevertheless enjoy extended and pleasant days and years!”

In answer, the Alter Rebbe explained that the soul is part of the Divine Name Havayah, the Tetragrammaton. Furthermore, both the internal and external aspects of the soul are “blown” or “breathed” forth, i.e., their source is the innermost reaches of G‑dliness. The innermost core of the soul derives from the internal aspect of the Tetragrammaton, the internal level of holiness. And even the external level of the soul, which is drawn down into man’s body through the utterance, “Let us make man,” derives from the internal aspect of this utterance. Thus, all aspects of the soul, even as enclothed within the body, ultimately derive from an act of “blowing”. And it is noted in ch. 5 that unlike speech, which can be heard even when something separates the listener from the speaker, exhaled breath does not reach its destination when there is an intervening obstruction (in this case, the individual’s sins).

The Alter Rebbe next uses this image and another to explain the concept of excision. The Jewish people’s relationship to G‑d is compared in Scripture to a rope, whose upper end is bound above and whose lower end is bound below—“Jacob is the rope of [G‑d’s] inheritance.” This rope is the lifeline through which G‑dliness is drawn down even into the external aspect of the soul that lodges within the body. Sins, especially those incurring excision, sever this lifeline, thus preventing the life-force which is “blown” forth to penetrate to the soul that is invested in the body. In the past, this meant that a person liable to excision would actually die before his fiftieth year while a person liable to death by Divine agency would actually die before his sixtieth year.

In this, the sixth chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that this applied only during the time when the Divine Presence dwelt among Israel, for then, each Jew’s spiritual sustenance reached him only from the “side” of holiness—from the Four-Letter Name of the Infinite One.

In times of exile, however, when the Divine Presence too is (so to speak) in exile, even the life-force of holiness can be drawn down through a garb of kelipah. It is therefore then possible that even individuals guilty of sins punishable by excision and death by Divine agency continue to receive their vitality, even though their spiritual lifeline to the Tetragrammaton has been severed. This explains why during the era of exile, even those guilty of the abovementioned sins can live long lives. Parenthetically, this also provides them with the opportunity to repent and rectify their past misdeeds.

However, all this pertained when Israel was on an elevated plane, when the Divine Presence dwelt among Israel1 in the Beit Hamikdash.2

אָמְנָם, זֶהוּ בִּזְמַן שֶׁהָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמַדְרֵגָה עֶלְיוֹנָה, כְּשֶׁהָיְתָה הַשְּׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ,

Then the body3 received its vitality only through the divine soul, from the innermost source of the life-giving power issuing from the infinite One, through the Tetragrammaton, as discussed above.

וְאָז, לֹא הָיוּ מְקַבְּלִים חַיּוּת לְגוּפָם, רַק – עַל־יְדֵי נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית לְבַדָּהּ, מִבְּחִינַת פְּנִימִיּוּת הַשֶּׁפַע שֶׁמַּשְׁפִּיעַ אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא עַל־יְדֵי שֵׁם הַוָיָ’ בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

Thus, if the spiritual lifeline emanating from the Tetragrammaton was severed, it was impossible for them to continue living. However, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say, once they had fallen from that spiritual height and thereby diverted the flow of the Divine life-force from its accustomed course, even deliberate transgressors can now receive their vitality as freely as do mere creatures.

But they then fell from their estate, and through their actions brought about the mystic exile of the Divine Presence,

אַךְ לְאַחַר שֶׁיָּרְדוּ מִמַּדְרֵגָתָם, וְגָרְמוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם סוֹד גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה,

That the Divine Presence should be in a state of exile among the forces of unholiness is indeed an inconceivable mystery.4

as the verse5 states, “Through your sins was your mother banished.”6

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “וּבְפִשְׁעֵיכֶם שׁוּלְּחָה אִמְּכֶם”,

“Your mother” refers to the Divine Presence, the “mother of the children” (as explained in Part I, ch. 52), also known as Knesset Yisrael, the source of Jewish souls—the level of malchut of Atzilut. In the context of the letters that constitute the Tetragrammaton, this corresponds to the final hey, from which proceeds the “rope” or “lifeline” to the soul.

This means that the benevolence flowing forth from the abovementioned7 latter hey of the Tetragrammaton was lowered far down, from plane to plane,

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁיָּרְדָה הַשְׁפָּעַת בְּחִינַת הֵ”א תַּתָּאָה הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל, וְנִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלָה מִמַּדְרֵגָה לְמַדְרֵגָה לְמַטָּה מַטָּה,

until it became enclothed in the ten sefirot of nogah,

עַד שֶׁנִּתְלַבְּשָׁה הַשְׁפָּעָתָהּ בְּי’ סְפִירוֹת דְּנוֹגַהּ,

Inasmuch as the kelipah called nogah includes an admixture of goodness, it is composed of ten sefirot, corresponding to the ten sefirot of holiness.8

which transmit9 the benevolence and vitality through the hosts of heaven and those charged over them

הַמַּשְׁפִּיעוֹת שֶׁפַע וְחַיּוּת עַל־יְדֵי הַמַּזָּלוֹת וְכָל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהַשָּׂרִים שֶׁעֲלֵיהֶם,

to every living physical being in this world, even to all vegetation,

לְכָל הַחַי הַגַּשְׁמִי שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְגַם לְכָל הַצּוֹמֵחַ,

as our Sages state: “There is no blade of grass below that has no spirit [Above that smites it and commands it: Grow!]”10

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: “אֵין לְךָ כָּל עֵשֶׂב מִלְּמַטָּה שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מַזָּל וְכוּ’”.

Thus, the life-force of all living beings—even of vegetation, which expresses its vitality through growth—derives from the kelipah of nogah.




1. Note by the Rebbe: “This indicates the level of the Jewish people at that time.”

2. Note by the Rebbe: “This applies to the world as a whole and to the Divine Presence. Specifically, with regard to man, there is yet another aspect.”

3. Note by the Rebbe: “I.e., also with regard to each and every individual.”

4. Note by the Rebbe: “See below, p. 140b” [in the standard edition of the Tanya: lggeret Hakodesh, Epistle 25, para. beg. Vehinei].

5. Note by the Rebbe: “At first glance, it is incomprehensible that man’s actions should cause the exile of the Divine Presence. The Alter Rebbe therefore provides proof and also an explanation: (a) proof—that it is indeed so; (b) an explanation—for the Divine Presence is ‘your mother.’”

6. Isaiah 50:1.

7. Note by the Rebbe: In ch. 4—on a cosmic scale; in ch. 5—in each individual soul.”

8. Note by the Rebbe: “Cf. Part I, ch. 6.”

9. Note by the Rebbe: “They do so in any case (and not necessarily because of the state of exile discussed here, but rather as a result of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge; see below, beg. of p. 140a [in the standard edition].”

10. Bereishit Rabbah 10:6.

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