Tanya-Igeres Hateshuvah Chapter 7: The two methods of Teshuvah Tatah

Chapter 7: The two methods of Teshuvah Tatah

20th Tamuz/25th Tamuz

1. The two methods of Teshuvah Tatah and returning the lower letter Hei back to its source:

  • The true and correct path of arousing the lower level of repentance and returning the lower letter Hei back to its source is accomplishing two methods.

2. The first method-Arousing compassion for G-d and for one’s G-dly soul:

  • Contemplating the general descent of the soul from above to below: The first method of arousing the lower level of repentance is by arousing Divine mercy from above from the source of mercy on one’s Godly soul. One is to contemplate how his soul fell from a very high level being attached to G-d who is the infinite source of life, and falling below to a pit which are the chambers of impurity.
  • Contemplating the descent of godliness into impurity caused by one’s actions: One should likewise arouse compassion for the source of his soul within the name of G-d [as sinful behavior causes not only one’s divine soul to be demoted to impurity but even its root in the divine name, as explained in length in the previous chapter]. This method of repentance is hinted to in the verse in Scripture which states “and return to Him and have mercy on Him,” meaning to say that when one returns to G-d in repentance, he is to arouse mercy for the divinity that is issued forth from G-d which as a result of his sins and evil thoughts has descended into the chambers of impurity and is now giving it energy and life. On this latter aspect the verse states, “[G-d is like] who is incarcerated within the gutters,” referring to the gutters of one’s mind, as one’s evil thoughts cause divinity that emanates from G-d he found be bound within the chambers of evil. This is considered the true exile of the Shechina, of the divine presence.
  • The auspicious time for the above arousal of compassion: The most suspicious time for one to his soul and for the divinity that has fallen into impurity is during Tikkun Chatzos. In the prayer of Tikkun Chatzos we state that “The crown of our head has fallen due to sin,” which in fact hints to the above discussion, that the sin of Man causes the Divine presence to be exiled into the chambers of impurity.
  • Why G-d is called humiliated: Rabbi Moses Cordevero writes of G-d and he is considered a humiliated king. The reason for this is based on what was explained above, as there is no greater humiliation for G-d than to have his divinity drawn to the chambers of impurity.
  • Contemplating the above: When one contemplates all the above points, each person according to his mental capabilities and abilities of comprehension, it leads to an arousal of compassion for G-d, and brings one to a feeling of tremendous grief and bitterness. This especially applies when one contemplates the greatness of G-d and how He fills and encompasses all worlds.

3. The second method-Crushing and subjugating the evil:

  • The second method of the lower level of repentance is accomplished through crushing and subduing the side of evil. You see, the entire energy of evil comes from arrogance and haughtiness, and the subjugation and crushing of evil until it is actual dust is how it is and nullified.
  • How to crush and subjugate evil-Through being brokenhearted: How does one accomplish the crushing and subduing of the evil? This is accomplished through having a broken and contrite heart, and by bringing oneself to a state of feelings of lowliness and shame. On this the holy Zohar states on the verse “a sacrifice to the name Elokim is a broken spirit” as follows: All the animal sacrifices are offered to the name Havayah which is the attribute of mercy of G-d. However, no animal sacrifices are offered to the name Elokim, which represents severities. However, there is one sacrifice that can be offered to the name Elokim, and that is a broken spirit, as a broken spirit has the power to break and remove the spirit of impurity.


21st Tamuz/26th Tamuz

  • How to be brokenhearted-Fasting and Cheshbon Nefesh: How does one accomplish a broken and humble heart? Some of it is accomplished through mortification and fasting. However, in our generation that we do have the strength to fast as did King David, who indeed killed his evil inclination through fasting, then the main humbling of the heart and being of broken spirit in order to remove the spirit of impurity, is accomplished through doing deep and proper accounting of the soul.
  • How to do the Cheshbon Nefesh: One is to invest one hour per day, either during daytime or night prior to Tikkun Chatzos, to deeply contemplate the effects of one’s sins and how it has caused the exile of the divine presence, and caused his divine soul to be uprooted from its source in G-d the source of all life. He should contemplate, that instead of his soul receiving from G-d, he has sunk his divine soul to a place of death and impurity, to the chambers of evil, and that the divine soul has now become a receptacle for the chambers of evil to receive from it energy [of evil] to enliven one’s body. On this the sages state that evildoers are called dead even when they are alive, meaning to say that their source of life comes from a place of death and impurity. Likewise, on this the verse states that people who are dead do not praise of G-d, as this is not referring to the actual dead of which it is forbidden to scoff at, but rather refers to the evildoers who are called dead even when alive, being that their minds are filled with forbidden thoughts [and are thus unable to praise G-d] so long as they remain in their wickedness without repentance.


22nd Tamuz/27th Tamuz

4. The non-severe sinner:

  • The need for fixing and repentance even by light sins: The above need for performing the lower repentance in the above two manners is necessary not just for a person who transgressed the most severe sins that carry a penalty of excision and death in the hands of heaven, such as spilling seed in vain, but also for a person who transgressed light sins.
  • The effect of light sin can become as damaging as a grave sin: The reason for this is because although a light sin does not completely sever the connection as do sins that carry the penalty of excision etc., nonetheless, even a light sin blemishes the G-dly soul. This is similar to the analogy of one who rips one of many strings of a rope that in addition to the fact that he has made the rope weaker by breaking one of its strands, furthermore it is possible for him to completely sever the rope if he tears enough individual strands. So too with the light sin, if one performs many different light sins or if a single sin is repeated excessively, then it can have an equally damaging effect as that of a grave sin that carries a penalty of excision.
  • Sins are compared to a dark cloud over the sun: The prophet compares sin to a dark cloud that covers over the light of the sun. This is because severe sins serve as a barrier between the flow of the infinite light of G-d from the name Havayah to the G-dly soul, similar to a dark cloud which serves as a barrier between the heavens and the earth. Now, just like there are different shades of darkness of clouds, with a darker shade causing more of the barrier between the sun and the earth, so too there is a difference between severe transgressions and light transgressions regards to the amount of G-dliness that they prevent from reaching their G-dly soul. Now, just like in the parable, if a person were to take many light dark clouds and put them together than it would have the same effect as a single very dark cloud, so too it is regarding the light sin, that even light sins that are repeated can have the same damaging effect as a single severe sin.
  • Sins that people consider light but are really severe: The definition of light sins usually refers to sins that people ignore and don’t you very severely. Nonetheless, in truth there are many light sins that are indeed severe and not considered light at all, such as turning a blind eye to giving charity, which the sages state is equal to committing idolatry, adultery, and murder. Likewise, one who speaks derogatorily of his friend, is likewise considered to have committed a sin similar to idolatry, adultery, and murder. And one who gets angry is considered to be idolatrous, and so too one who is arrogant, and so on and so forth of many examples of the Talmud where we see that what is viewed as a light sin is really considered a severe sin. Likewise, the sin of nullifying Torah learning is also indeed very severe, as the sages state that G-d forgave even idolatry but did not forgive the neglect of Torah study by the destruction of the first Temple.

5. The acceptance of the four capital punishments during the bedtime Shema:

  • The reason it was established for one to accept upon himself the four capital punishments during the bedtime Shema is in order to fix the various blemishes caused by various sins many of which can have an equal effect and damage as the most severe of sins.

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