Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 11, Class 3

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 11,  Class 3


Even by human standards [this certainty of pardon is legitimate, for] one must forgive as soon as he is asked for pardon.

וַהֲרֵי אֲפִילוּ בְּמִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם כֵּן, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ הָאָדָם לִמְחוֹל תֵּיכֶף וּמִיָּד שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ מְחִילָה,

He must not cruelly withhold his forgiveness,

וְלֹא יְהֵא אַכְזָרִי מִלִּמְחוֹל,

even if one were to cut off his hand,

וַאֲפִילוּ בְּקוֹטֵעַ יַד חֲבֵירוֹ,

as we find in the Gemara, at the end of ch. 8 of Bava Kama.9

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא בְּסוֹף פֶּרֶק ח׳ דְּבָבָא קַמָּא:

So, too, if one has asked his fellow for forgiveness three times and has been rebuffed, he need not apologize further.

וְאִם בִּיקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ ג’ פְּעָמִים וְלֹא מָחַל לוֹ – שׁוּב אֵין צָרִיךְ לְבַקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ,

When King David asked the Gibeonites10 to forgive King Saul, who had killed their people, and they refused to do so,

וְהַגִּבְעוֹנִים שֶׁבִּיקֵּשׁ דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם מֵהֶם מְחִילָה בְּעַד שָׁאוּל שֶׁהֵמִית אֶת הַגִּבְעוֹנִים, וְלֹא רָצוּ לִמְחוֹל –

David decreed that they should not enter the congregation of G‑d, i.e., they would never be allowed to convert and thereby join the Jewish people, who are merciful…,

גָּזַר דָּוִד עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁלֹּא יָבֹאוּ בִּקְהַל ה’, שֶׁהֵם רַחֲמָנִים וְכוּ’,

as we have learned in Yevamot, end of ch. 8.11

כִּדְאִיתָא בְּפֶרֶק ח׳ דִּיבָמוֹת.

As a Divine trait, how much more certain is it—nay, infinitely more certain—[that forgiveness is swift].

וּבְמִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה לְאֵין קֵץ.

Now, if mere mortals are also expected to forgive instantly, what kind of praise is it that we offer the Infinite One in Shemoneh Esreh by ascribing a like attribute to Him? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now anticipates:

As to the fact that we praise and bless G‑d as being “the gracious One Who abounds in forgiveness”—the verb chosen is marbeh (“abounds”), implying a quality unique to G‑d.

וּמַה שֶּׁמְּשַׁבְּחִים וּמְבָרְכִים אֶת ה’ “חַנּוּן הַמַּרְבֶּה לִסְלוֹחַ” – “הַמַּרְבֶּה” דַּיְיקָא,

In Ezra,12 [too,] we find that G‑d “pardons abundantly.”

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֶזְרָא “וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ”,

This means:


In the mortal world, if one person harms another and asks his pardon, which is granted,

שֶׁבְּמִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם, אִם יֶחֱטָא אִישׁ לְאִישׁ וּבִיקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ מְחִילָה וּמָחַל לוֹ

and then repeats the misdeed,

וְאַחַר כָּךְ חָזַר לְסוּרוֹ –

it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again,

קָשֶׁה מְאֹד שֶׁיִּמְחוֹל לוֹ שֵׁנִית,

and certainly a third and fourth time.

וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן בִּשְׁלִישִׁית וּרְבִיעִית.

By the standard of G‑d, however, there is no difference between once and a thousand times,

אֲבָל בְּמִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֵין הֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין פַּעַם אַחַת לְאֶלֶף פְּעָמִים,

for pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy,

כִּי הַמְּחִילָה הִיא מִמִּדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

and Divine attributes are not bounded and finite; they are infinite,

וּמִדּוֹתָיו הַקְּדוֹשׁוֹת אֵינָן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית, אֶלָּא בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף,

as in the verse, “For His mercies have not ended.”13

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב “כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו”,

Relative to infinity, there is no difference whatsoever between a small number and a large one,

וּלְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף אֵין הֶפְרֵשׁ כְּלָל בֵּין מִסְפָּר קָטָן לְגָדוֹל,

for “before Him, all are considered as naught,”14 and “He makes equal the small and the great….”15




9.  92a.

10.  II Samuel 21.

11.  78b ff.

12.  The reference is not to the term but to the concept; see explanation of the Rebbe in the Yiddish original of the present work (Shiurim Besefer Hatanya), p. 1212 ff.

13.  Lamentations 3:22.

14.  Cf. Zohar I, 11b; cf. Daniel 4:32.

15.  Liturgy, High Holidays, Repetition of the Musaf Amidah (MachzorAnnotated Edition—Rosh Hashanah, p. 204; Yom Kippur, p. 242). 

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