Chapter 11, Class # 2

Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 11

שבאחת מכל אלה וכיוצא בהן נקרא רשע בעת ההיא

In any one of all these instances, or their like, i.e., whenever one commits even a minor transgression in thought, speech or action, he is calledrasha, wicked, at that time;

שהרע שבנפשו גובר בו ומתלבש בגופו, ומחטיאו ומטמאו

the term rasha meaning that the evil of his animal soul prevails within him, clothing itself in his body, inducing it to sin and defiling it.

ואחר כך גובר בו הטוב שבנפשו האלקית, ומתחרט

Afterwards, after this person has transgressed in any of the above-mentioned matters, the good that is in his divine soul asserts itself, and he is filled with remorse over his transgression in thought, word or action;

ומבקש מחילה וסליחה מה׳, וה׳ יסלח לו, אם שב בתשובה הראויה על פי עצת חכמינו זכרונם לברכה בשלשה חלוקי כפרה שהיה רבי ישמעאל דורש כו׳, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

he will seek pardon and forgiveness of G‑d for his transgression,and if he repents with the appropriate penitence, in accordance with the counsel of our Sages of blessed memory, G‑d will indeed forgive him, with [one of] the three forms of pardon expounded by Rabbi Yishmael,6 as explained elsewhere.7

The three forms of pardon: (a) If one transgresses a positive precept and repents, he is pardoned at once; (b) if he transgresses a prohibitive commandment and repents, the Day of Atonement together with his repentance atones; (c) if his transgression carries the penalty of karet (spiritual excision) or execution at the hands of the court, then after having repented and undergone the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, suffering brings about full atonement.

However, as the Rebbe notes, the divine pardon elicited by this person’s repentance does not change his status of rasha in the true sense of the term, but only in the borrowed sense of the terms rasha and tzaddik as applied to reward and punishment. Indeed, when weighed on the scales of merits and sins, such a person — who sins rarely, only in minor matters, and then repents immediately — is deemed a tzaddik and deserves reward, since the overwhelming majority of his deeds are good.

But this usage of tzaddik is merely a borrowed term, as explained in ch. 1. As true definitive terms, tzaddik and rasha describe the quality of the good or evil in one’s soul. Viewed in this perspective the person described above is classified as a rasha even after he repents and is pardoned, for he still retains his predisposition toward sin, and his animal soul still tends to dominate him.

Thus far the Alter Rebbe has discussed a higher-level rasha — the “rashawho knows good” — one in whom the animal soul rarely prevails, and then only in one of the three soul-garments of thought, speech and action.

ויש מי שהרע גובר בו יותר

There is, however, another [type of “rasha who knows good”], in whom the evil prevails more strongly.

ומתלבשים בו כל שלשה לבושים של הרע, ומחטיאו בעבירות חמורות יותר, ובעתים קרובים יותר

All three garments of evil clothe themselves in him — he transgresses in thought, in speech, as well as in action; also, the evil causes him to commit more heinous sins, and [to sin] more frequently.

אך בינתיים מתחרט, ובאים לו הרהורי תשובה מבחינת הטוב שבנפשו, שמתגבר קצת בינתיים

Yet he, too, is nevertheless described as a “rasha who knows good,” forintermittently between one sin and the next he experiences remorse, and thoughts of repentance enter his mind, arising from the aspect of good that is still in his soul, that gathers a degree of strength in the interim.

אלא שאין לו התגברות כל כך לנצח את הרע

However, the good within him does not strengthen itself sufficiently to vanquish the evil

לפרוש מחטאיו לגמרי, להיות מודה ועוזב

so that he can rid himself entirely of his sins, and be as one who confesses his sins and abandons them once and for all.

ועל זה אמרו רז״ל: רשעים מלאים חרטות

Concerning such a person, the Rabbis of blessed memory have said,8 “The wicked are full of remorse,” i.e., between sins. It is also possible that even while sinning they regret their actions, but feel themselves unable to master their desires.

שהם רוב הרשעים, שיש בחינת טוב בנפשם עדיין

These represent the majority of the wicked, in whose soul there still lingers some good — and it is this good which causes these feelings of vexation and remorse in their mind and heart.

We thus see that there are many levels within the rank of the “rasha who knows good,” ranging from one who sins only rarely, only in minor matters, and with the involvement of only one soul-garment, to him who sins often, grievously, and with all three soul-garments. Yet they all come under the same heading of the“rasha who knows good,” the difference between them being to what degree the good within them is dominated by the evil — in direct contrast to the rank of the“tzaddik who knows evil,” where there are various degrees of dominance of the evil by the good.

Having defined the “rasha who knows good,” the Alter Rebbe now turns to consider the “rasha who knows (only) evil”:

אבל מי שאינו מתחרט לעולם, ואין באים לו הרהורי תשובה כלל, נקרא רשע ורע לו

But he who never feels contrition, and in whose mind no thoughts of repentance at all ever enter, is called a “rasha who knows (only) evil.”

שהרע שבנפשו הוא לבדו נשאר בקרבו, כי גבר כל כך על הטוב עד שנסתלק מקרבו

For only the evil in his soul has remained in him, having so prevailed over the good that the latter has departed from within him,

ועומד בבחינת מקיף עליו מלמעלה

and the good now stands in a manner of makkif over him, i.e., the good hovers over him, so to speak, in an aloof and external manner, so that he has no conscious awareness of it.

Yet, since he still possesses good, albeit as a makkif, for after all, he possesses a divine soul —

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: אכל בי עשרה שכינתא שריא

Therefore have the Sages said,9 “Over every gathering of any ten Jews rests the Shechinah (the Divine Presence).”

That is to say, even if they are all in the category of the “rasha who knows (only) evil,” the Shechinah still hovers over them; for they too possess good in a manner of makkif. Since at such a gathering the Shechinah is present only in the externally encompassing way of makkif, not entering the consciousness of those assembled, therefore their correspondingly makkif level of good is sufficient to enable them to receive this revelation.

With regard to the subject of the Jew whose animal soul prevails over his divine soul, the following story bears mention.

A certain freethinker once asked of the Tzemach Tzedek: The word Yehudim(“Jews”) is normally spelled in the Book of Esther with one letter yud before the final letter. Why is it that when the word is used there in connection with the harsh decree against the Jews, it is spelled with two letters yud?

The Tzemach Tzedek answered: Yud is numerically equivalent to ten; it represents the ten soul-powers possessed by both the divine and animal souls. There are Jews who conduct their lives solely according to the dictates of the divine soul’s ten powers, while in other Jews the animal soul prevails, and their conduct is dictated also by the animal soul’s ten powers. Haman planned to exterminate all the Jews, even those who were of two yuds, i.e., those ruled by the ten evil soul-powers as well.

But the man persisted: Why then is the word spelled several times with twoyuds even after the decree was repealed? To which the Tzemach Tzedek responded: After suffering under Haman’s evil decree and ultimately witnessing G‑d’s salvation, even those Jews repented and became equals of their brethren whose lives were led by the dictates of the divine soul and good inclination. Thus, concluded the Tzemach Tzedek, the two yuds (yud, or yid, is also Yiddish for “Jew”) became equal.

FOOTNOTES
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6. Yoma 86a.
7. Tanya, Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 1.
8. Nedarim 9b. (So cited in early sources, though not to be found in current editions of theTalmud).
9. Sanhedrin 39a.

 

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