Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 7, Class 1

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 7, Class 1


In the language of the Zohar, the lower level of repentance entails returning the latter hey of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d to its rightful place—returning the Shechinah, which is the source of Jewish souls, from the exile to which it was banished by transgression. For when a man sins, the Divine vitality that flows forth from the Shechinah descends into the chambers of kelipah and sitra achara, and from there, that individual in turn derives nurture at the time of his sins. Repentance redeems the Shechinah from its exile and returns the flow to its proper place.

This was the theme of the previous chapter.

However, the true and direct path to the lower level of Teshuvah, returning the latter hey as noted above, involves two general elements.

וְאוּלָם, דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת וְהַיָּשָׁר לִבְחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה, הֵ”א תַּתָּאָה הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל – הֵם ב’ דְּבָרִים דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל.

These two elements are: (a) awakening G‑d’s supreme compassion for his soul, and (b) the subjugation and nullification of evil. Both are necessary in order to ensure that the lower level of repentance will be true and direct.

The Rebbe notes that although we have previously learned (ch. 1) that the kernel of repentance is a firm and wholehearted resolution not to commit a particular sin again, nevertheless, without the two basic elements about to be discussed, such repentance will be neither true nor direct.

Truth implies permanence,1 as in the verse, “The lip of truth shall be established forever.”2 Should one fail to take the preparatory steps about to be mentioned here, it is entirely possible that his forsaking sin—described above as repentance—will not be everlasting, hence not truthful. Furthermore, these steps also make one’s repentance “direct”. For a state of repentance can also be arrived at very indirectly, as in the case of R. Elazar ben Durdaya, who was led to repentance by circumstances which were in themselves evil.3 The direct path to repentance, by contrast, is found by means of the steps that the Alter Rebbe now describes.

The first is to awaken supreme compassion from the Source of mercy for one’s Divine spirit and soul,

הָאֶחָד, הוּא לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים מִמְּקוֹר הָרַחֲמִים עַל נִשְׁמָתוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית,

There are two distinct states of Divine compassion, indicated by the terms “Merciful Father” and “Father of Mercy.”4 The former term (אָב הָרַחֲמָן) merely signifies that G‑d possesses the attribute, or middah, of mercy—and since middah means not only “attribute” but also “measure,” it refers to a finite quality of mercy. The latter term (אָב הָרַחֲמִים) stresses the fact that G‑d is the father, or fountainhead, of all mercy. Arousing His essential quality of mercy “from the Source of mercy” thus means arousing His infinite measure of compassion—supreme compassion.

that has fallen from a lofty height5 (lit., “rooftop”), the Infinite Source of Life,

שֶׁנָּפְלָה “מֵאִיגְּרָא רָמָה” – חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

into a deep pit,

לְ”בִירָא עֲמִיקְתָּא”,

Not merely from a rooftop but from a “lofty rooftop”; not merely into a pit, but into a “deep pit.”

namely, the chambers of defilement and sitra achara.

הֵן הֵיכְלוֹת הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

As explained in the previous chapter, a person’s sins degrade his soul to the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Finding itself in such a sorry state, such a soul is indeed in need of Divine compassion.

[One should arouse Divine compassion] as well for the source [of the soul] in the Source of Life, the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

וְעַל מְקוֹרָהּ בִּמְקוֹר הַחַיִּים, הוּא שֵׁם הַוָיָ’ בָּרוּךְ־הוּא;

Since the soul is rooted in the Tetragrammaton, its degradation—brought about by sin—correspondingly causes the flow of holiness that emanates from the Tetragrammaton to descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Hence, not only the soul, but its Source too, is to be pitied.

As the verse states: “He shall return to G‑d, and He will have compassion for him”6i.e., the sinner shall return to G‑d and have compassion for Him.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “וְיָשׁוֹב אֶל הַוָיָ’ וִירַחֲמֵהוּ”,

But how are we to understand the concept of arousing mercy for the Tetragrammaton?

This means arousing compassion for the life-giving power issuing from the Four-Letter Name that has descended by stages into the chambers of the impure sitra achara to give them vitality.

פֵּירוּשׁ, לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים עַל הַשְׁפָּעַת שֵׁם הַוָיָ’ בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלָה וְיָרְדָה תּוֹךְ הֵיכְלוֹת הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא הַטְּמֵאִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

[This descent was brought about] by the deeds of man and his evil schemes and thoughts.

עַל־יְדֵי מַעֲשֵׂה אֱנוֹשׁ וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו, וּמַחְשְׁבוֹתָיו הָרָעוֹת;

Evil thoughts alone suffice to make the vitality descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara.

As the verse says, “The king is bound with gutters,”7 [which is interpreted to mean that “the King is bound] with the gutters of the mind….”8

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “מֶלֶךְ אָסוּר בָּרְהָטִים” – בִּרְהִיטֵי מוֹחָא וְכוּ’

Explanation by the Rebbe: “Gutters” refers to the various channels and gutters of the mind through which thoughts, like gushing currents, rush fleetingly. Thus, even transient evil thoughts that one harbors ephemerally can bind and shackle the King; they can exile the flow of vitality emanating from the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

This state, as noted above,9 is the exile of the Shechinah—the Divine Presence, the level of malchut (“kingship”) of the World of Atzilut.

הִיא בְּחִינַת גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

The auspicious time for this [arousal of compassion] is Tikkun Chatzotthe midnight lament for the exile of the Divine Presence,

The auspicious time for this [arousal of compassion] is Tikkun Chatzotthe midnight lament for the exile of the Divine Presence,

וּזְמַן הַמְסוּגָּל לָזֶה, הוּא בְּתִיקּוּן חֲצוֹת,

as pointed out in the note to Tikkun Chatzot in the Siddur; see there at length.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּסִּידּוּר בְּהֶעָרָה, עַיֵּין שָׁם בַּאֲרִיכוּת.




1. Note by the Rebbe: “As in Part I, end of ch. 13.”

2. Proverbs 12:19.

3. Avodah Zarah 17a.

4. Note by the Rebbe: “Likkutei Torah, Nasso 23a and references there.”

5. Note by the Rebbe: “An expression of the Talmud in Chagigah 5b. The word ‘roof’ is omitted in the text of Rashi in the Talmud but is to be found in the text of Rashi in Ein Yaakov.”

6. Isaiah 55:7.

7. Note by the Rebbe: “Shir Hashirim 7:6; see Tzemach Tzedek, ad loc. [Or Hatorah, Shir Hashirim, vol. 2, pp. 607, 611.] This requires further clarification.”

8. Note by the Rebbe: “Addenda to Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 6.

9. Note by the Rebbe: “Concerning all the above, see [Tanya,] Part I, ch. 45 and the notes referring to it by the Tzemach Tzedek on Lamentations, p. 22 (in Or Hatorah on Nach, vol. 2, p. 1053), concerning the variations, etc.”

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