Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 11, Class 1

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 11, Class 1


The Alter Rebbe stated in the previous chapter that since prayer is an expression of teshuvah ilaah, the higher level of return, it must be preceded by the humility and contrition of teshuvah tataah, the lower level of return. This is attained by spiritual stocktaking and by arousing Divine compassion upon one’s soul, in keeping with the Mishnaic dictum that “one should embark on worship only in an earnest frame of mind,” which is explained by Rashi to mean “humility.”

At the same time, the Alter Rebbe continued, we are also taught that “one should embark on worship only with joy.”

Since nowadays, most people are incapable of instantly turning their hearts from one extreme to the other, the Alter Rebbe advised that the time for the humbled heart of teshuvah tataah be advanced to the Tikkun Chatzot of the preceding midnight so that when the time for prayer arrives, the worshipper will be in a state of joy.

In the present chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that difficulties notwithstanding, it is possible for the heart to simultaneously harbor two opposite emotions—the anguished soul of teshuvah tataah and the joy that immediately precedes and accompanies prayer.

This subject, simultaneously harboring contrite humility in the heart—the state of teshuvah tataah, as explained—and the abovementioned [contrary emotion of] joy in G‑d that is also necessary for the service of prayer,

וְאָמְנָם, לִהְיוֹת בְּלִבּוֹ הַהַכְנָעָה, הִיא בְּחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, וְגַם הַשִּׂמְחָה בַּה’, שְׁתֵּיהֶן בְּיַחַד –

has already been discussed in Likkutei Amarim, at the end of ch. 34.

כְּבָר מִילְּתָא אֲמוּרָה בְּלִקּוּטֵי־אֲמָרִים סוֹף פֶּרֶק ל”ד,

The Alter Rebbe explained there that these two emotions are not mutually exclusive since one’s contriteness is occasioned by his body and animal soul while his joy stems from his Divine soul and the G‑dly spark that it houses. Having two distinct causes, the two emotions can lodge together.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to quote the Zohar to this effect:

This is as stated in the Zohar 1: “[Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart, and] joy is lodged in the other side of my heart.”

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ “חֶדְוָה תְּקִיעָא בְּלִבַּאי מִסִּטְרָא דָא וְכוּ’”.

This statement was made by R. Elazar ben R. Shimon. Hearing from his father Kabbalistic insights into the Destruction of the Holy Temple, he was at one and the same time heartbroken from his renewed recognition of the enormity of the Destruction—and joyful to be inducted into the mysteries of the Torah. We thus see from the Zohar that two opposite emotions can coexist when they result from two different causes.

Joined to this is faith and confidence, the heart being firm and certain in G‑d—that “He delights in kindness,”2

וּבְצֵירוּף עוֹד הָאֱמוּנָה וְהַבִּטָּחוֹן, לִהְיוֹת נָכוֹן לִבּוֹ בָּטוּחַ בַּה’, כִּי חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא,

and is “gracious and merciful”3 and abundantly forgiving the instant one entreats Him for forgiveness and atonement.

וְחַנּוּן וְרַחוּם וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ, תֵּיכֶף וּמִיָּד שֶׁמְּבַקֵּשׁ מְחִילָה וּסְלִיחָה מֵאִתּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

(4As it is written, “In accordance with Your abounding compassion, erase my transgressions”;5

(“כְּרוֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי”

or: “Cleanse me, purify me”6;

“כַּבְּסֵנִי טַהֲרֵנִי”,

or: “Erase all my sins….”7)

וְכָל עֲווֹנוֹתַי מְחֵה” וְכוּ’),

[The worshipper offers supplications such as the above] without the faintest vestige of doubt.

בְּלִי שׁוּם סָפֵק וּסְפֵק סְפֵיקָא בָּעוֹלָם.

For this reason, in every Shemoneh Esreh, the moment we plead, “Pardon us…,” [we conclude,] “Blessed are You, O G‑d, gracious One Who pardons abundantly.”

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ מְבָרְכִין בְּכָל תְּפִלַּת י”ח תֵּיכֶף שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים “סְלַח לָנוּ כוּ’” – “בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ חַנּוּן הַמַּרְבֶּה לִסְלוֹחַ”,

Now we are forbidden to recite a blessing of doubtful obligation for fear that it be pronounced in vain.8

וַהֲרֵי “סְפֵק בְּרָכוֹת לְהָקֵל”, מִשּׁוּם חֲשַׁשׁ בְּרָכָה לְבַטָּלָה?

Thus, were there even the slightest doubt as to whether G‑d forgives the sinner, we would never have been commanded to recite the above blessing.

However, there is no doubt here whatsoever,

אֶלָּא, אֵין כָּאן שׁוּם סָפֵק כְּלָל,

for we have asked, “Pardon us, forgive us.”

מֵאַחַר שֶׁבִּקַּשְׁנוּ “סְלַח לָנוּ” “מְחָל לָנוּ”,




1. III, 75a.

2. Micah 7:18.

3. Psalms 145:8.

4. Parentheses are in the original text.

5. Psalms 51:3.

6. Cf. loc. cit., v. 4.

7. Loc. cit., v. 11.

8. Berachot 33a. 

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