In the language of the Zohar, the lower level of repentance entails returning the latter hei of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d to its rightful place — returning the Shechinah, which is the source of Jewish souls, from the exile to which it was banished by transgression. For when a man sins, the Divine vitality that flows forth from the Shechinah descends into the chambers of kelipah and sitra achra, and from there that individual in turn derives nurture at the time of his sins. Repentance redeems the Shechinah from its exile and returns the flow to its proper place.
This was the theme of the previous chapter.
ואולם דרך האמת והישר לבחינת תשובה תתאה ה״א תתאה הנ״ל, הם ב׳ דברים דרך כלל
However, the true and direct path to the lower level of teshuvah, returning the latter hei as noted above, involves two general elements.
These two elements are: (a) awakening G‑d’s supreme compassion for his soul, and (b) the subjugation and nullification of evil. Both are necessary in order to ensure that the lower level of repentance will be true and direct.
The Rebbe notes that although we have previously learned (ch. 1) that the kernel of repentance is a firm and wholehearted resolution not to commit a particular sin again, nevertheless without the two basic elements about to be discussed such repentance will be neither true nor direct.
Truth implies permanence,1 as in the verse,2 “The lip of truth shall be established forever.” Should one fail to take the preparatory steps about to be mentioned here, it is entirely possible that his forsaking sin — described above as repentance — will not be everlasting, hence not truthful.
Furthermore, these steps also make one’s repentance “direct”. For a state of repentance can also be arrived at very indirectly, as in the case of R. Elazar ben Durdaya, who was led to repentance by circumstances which were in themselves evil.3 The direct path to repentance, by contrast, is found by means of the steps that the Alter Rebbe now describes.
האחד הוא לעורר רחמים העליונים, ממקור הרחמים, על נשמתו ונפשו האלקית
The first is to awaken supreme compassion from the Source of mercy for one’s Divine spirit and soul,
There are two distinct states of Divine compassion, indicated by the terms “Merciful Father” and “Father of Mercy”.4 The former term ( אב הרחמן) merely signifies that G‑d possesses the attribute, or middah, of mercy — and since middah means not only “attribute” but also “measure”, it refers to a finite quality of mercy. The latter term ( אב הרחמים) stresses the fact that G‑d is the father, or fountainhead, of all mercy. Arousing His essential quality of mercy “from the Source of mercy” thus means arousing His infinite measure of compassion — supreme compassion.
שנפלה מאיגרא רמה, חיי החיים ברוך הוא
that has fallen from a lofty height (lit., “rooftop”), the Infinite Source of Life,
Not merely from a rooftop but from a “lofty rooftop”; not merely into a pit, but into a “deep pit.”
הן היכלות הטומאה והסטרא אחרא
namely, the chambers of defilement and sitra achra.
As explained in the previous chapter, a person’s sins degrade his soul to the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achra. Finding itself in such a sorry state, such a soul is indeed in need of Divine compassion.
ועל מקורה במקור החיים, הוא שם הוי׳ ברוך הוא
[One should arouse Divine compassion] as well for the source [of the soul] in the Source of Life, the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.
Since the soul is rooted in the Tetragrammaton, its degradation — brought about by sin — correspondingly causes the flow of holiness that emanates from the Tetragrammaton to descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achra. Hence not only the soul, but its Source too, is to be pitied.