Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 11, Class 6

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 11,  Class 6


As to the verse that says, “My sin is always before me,”20

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב “וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד” –

this does not imply that one ought to be constantly melancholy and humiliated, G‑d forbid,

אֵין הַמְכֻוָּון לִהְיוֹת תָּמִיד עָצֵב נִבְזֶה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

for later verses declare, “Let me hear gladness and joy…,”21

דְּהָא כְּתִיב בַּתְרֵיהּ: “תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה וְגוֹ’

and “uphold me with a spirit of magnanimity…”22;

וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי וְגוֹ’”,

moreover, “Throughout one’s days, one should experience teshuvah [ilaah],”23 [a manner of repentance] that is marked by great joy, as noted above.

וּמִשּׁוּם שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת כָּל יָמָיו בִּתְשׁוּבָה עִילָּאָה, שֶׁהִיא בְּשִׂמְחָה רַבָּה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

How, then, are we to understand that “my sin is always before me”?

Rather, [the term used for “before me” is] specifically negdiwhich implies being opposite but at a certain distance,

אֶלָּא “נֶגְדִּי” דַיְיקָא,

as in the verse that says, “You shall stand at a distance (mineged)24; or: “at a distance (mineged) around the Tent of Assembly shall they camp.”25

כְּמוֹ: “וְאַתָּה תִּתְיַצֵּב מִנֶּגֶד”, “מִנֶּגֶד סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד יַחֲנוּ”,

Rashi defines the above term (lit., “opposite”) as “at a distance.”

וּפֵירֵשׁ רַשִׁ”י “מֵרָחוֹק”.

Thus, one should always retain an awareness of his having sinned—but “at a distance,” i.e., at the back of his mind.

Hence, the intention [of our verse] is merely that one’s heart should not grow haughty

וְהַמְכֻוָּון, רַק לְבִלְתִּי רוּם לְבָבוֹ,

and that he be humble of spirit before all men

וְלִהְיוֹת שְׁפַל רוּחַ בִּפְנֵי כָל הָאָדָם,

because there will be a remembrance between his eyes that he has sinned before G‑d.

כְּשֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינָיו שֶׁחָטָא נֶגֶד ה’.

Memories of past sin are thus not intended to engender despondency, G‑d forbid.

In fact, as far as joy is concerned, the remembrance of one’s past sins will be especially effective

וְאַדְּרַבָּה, לְעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה יוֹעִיל זִכְרוֹן הַחֵטְא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת,

in encouraging happiness in the face of whatever misfortunes threaten to overtake him,

בִּכְדֵי לְקַבֵּל בְּשִׂמְחָה כָּל הַמְּאוֹרָעוֹת הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת וּבָאוֹת,

whether from heaven or through the agency of man,

בֵּין מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם, בֵּין עַל־יְדֵי הַבְּרִיּוֹת,

whether in speech or in deed.

בְּדִיבּוּר אוֹ בְּמַעֲשֶׂה

Any such physical or verbal offense will be accepted with equanimity when one recalls that he has sinned in the past and that his present afflictions in fact assist in his atonement.

(26This [humility on account of one’s imperfect record] is good counsel that enables a man to be immune to becoming angry or taking offense in any way….)

(וְזוֹ עֵצָה טוֹבָה לְהִנָּצֵל מִכַּעַס וְכָל מִינֵי קְפֵידָא וְכוּ’).

As our Sages declare, “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn,

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: “הַנֶּעֱלָבִין וְאֵינָן עוֹלְבִין,

who hear their insult and do not retort,

שׁוֹמְעִין חֶרְפָּתָם וְאֵין מְשִׁיבִין,

who perform out of love and are happy in affliction—concerning them does Scripture say,27 ‘Those who love Him [shall be] like the sun rising in all its might.’”28

עוֹשִׂים מֵאַהֲבָה וּשְׂמֵחִים בְּיִסּוּרִים וְכוּ’”,

Three distinct categories are mentioned here, in ascending order: “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn” do respond to the insults of others but do not retaliate in kind. Those of the second category “hear their insult and do not retort” at all. Those of the third category actually “are happy in affliction”—because they remember their past sins and are glad to accept their present suffering as a means of penance.

Moreover, “whoever passes over his feelings, all his sins are passed over.”29

וְ”כָל הַמַּעֲבִיר עַל מִדּוֹתָיו – מַעֲבִירִים לוֹ עַל כָּל פְּשָׁעָיו”:




20. Psalms 51:5.

21. Loc. cit., v. 10.

22. Loc. cit., v. 14.

23. Cf. Shabbat 153a.

24. II Samuel 18:13.

25. Numbers 2:2.

26. Parentheses are in the original text.

27. Judges 5:31.

28. Shabbat 88b; Gittin 36b.

29. Rosh Hashanah 17a.

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