The Epistle on Repentance: Chapter 07 – Part 5 – video

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להתבונן במה שפעל ועשה בחטאיו, בחינת גלות השכינה כנ״ל

to contemplate how through his sins he has brought about the exile of the Divine Presence, as noted above,

וגרם לעקור נשמתו ונפשו האלקית מחיי החיים ברוך הוא

and caused his spirit and Divine soul to be uprooted from the Divine Source of all Life,

והורידה למקום הטומאה והמות, הן היכלות הסטרא אחרא

and demeaned it to a place of defilement and death, namely, the chambers of the sitra achra,

ונעשית בבחינת מרכבה אליהם

[his soul] becoming a vehicle for them,

Just as a vehicle has no will of its own and is completely subservient to the desires of its driver, so, too, is his soul subservient to the impure chambers of the sitra achra from whence it derives nurture.

לקבל מהם שפע וחיות להשפיע לגופו, כנ״ל

receiving from them vitality to endow his body, as noted above — that the nurture and life-force of the sinner emanate from the kelipot and sitra achra.

Meditation along these lines will bring a man to a state of contrition — itself a fit offering to the Divine Name Elokim.

וזהו שאמרו רז״ל: רשעים בחייהם קרויים מתים

Thus our Sages declared18 that “the wicked while alive (lit., ”in their life“) are called ‘dead’.”

כלומר, שחייהם נמשכים ממקום המות והטומאה

This means to say, that their life is derived from the site of death and impurity — from the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achra, as opposed to holiness, which is true life.

וכן מה שכתוב: לא המתים יהללו וגו׳, אינו כלועג לרש, חס ושלום

(19Accordingly, the verse20 that says that “the dead will not praise…” is no “mockery of the impoverished,” G‑d forbid,21 for it does not refer to those who are physically dead.

אלא הכוונה על הרשעים, שבחייהם קרויים מתים

Rather, the reference is to the wicked who, while alive, are called dead, and being spiritually dead are unable to praise G‑d,

שמבלבלים אותם במחשבות זרות בעודם ברשעם, ואינם חפיצים בתשובה, כנודע

for they are confused with alien thoughts while yet in their wickedness, and do not desire repentance, as is known.)

While in such a state, the evil person will find it well nigh impossible to praise G‑d fittingly, because of the confusing alien thoughts which are thrust upon him.

Thus, an individual will become contrite of heart when he contemplates how his soul has been uprooted from its Source because of a sin incurring excision or death by divine agency.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that even sins which do not carry so harsh a penalty may still have the same effect.

ואף מי שלא עבר על עון כרת וגם לא על עון מיתה בדי שמים

Even one who has never violated a sin punishable by excision or a sin incurring death by divine agency,

שהוא הוצאת זרע לבטלה וכהאי גוונא

such as vain emission and the like,

אלא שאר עבירות קלות

but other less severe sins,

אף על פי כן, מאחר שהן פוגמים בנשמה ונפש האלקית

nonetheless, since they cause a defect in the spirit and Divine soul,

וכמשל פגימת ופסיקת חבלים דקים כנ״ל

as in the analogy of the fine strands of rope that are defective or severed, as noted above — in ch. 5, which describes the 613 strands that together comprise the lifeline of the soul, and when one transgresses one of the 613 commandments, one of these strands is severed,

הרי בריבוי החטאים יכול להיות פגם כמו בלאו אחד שיש בו כרת ומיתה

therefore, through an accumulation of sins there can eventually be a defect as grave as from one prohibition involving excision or death.

ואפילו בכפילת חטא אחד פעמים רבות

This would be true even when a single sin is repeated numerous times.22

Far from merely damaging the selfsame strand repeatedly, the repetition of even the same sin weakens and jeopardizes the rope as a whole.

כמו שהמשיל הנביא החטאים לענן המאפיל אור השמש

In this manner the prophet compares sins to a cloud that dims the light of the sun.

כמו שנאמר: מחיתי כעב פשעיך

As the verse states,23 “I have erased your transgressions like a thick cloud” (that can dissipate).

הם עבירות חמורות, המבדילים בין פנימית השפעת שם הוי׳ ברוך הוא לנפש האלקית

This refers to the grave sins (24that are barriers) between the internal aspect of the power flowing forth from the Tetragrammaton, and the Divine soul.

כהבדלת ענן עב וחשוך המבדיל בין השמים לארץ ולדרים עליה, על דרך משל

This is like the separation of a thick, dark cloud that stands between the sun and the earth with its inhabitants.25

וכענן חטאתיך, הן עבירות קלות שאדם דש בעקביו

[The above verse continues:] “…and your sins like a cloud.” These are the lesser sins that man tramples under his heel,

המבדילים כהבדלת ענן קל וקלוש, על דרך משל

[sins] that obscure as does a thin and wispy cloud.

והנה, כמו שבמשל הזה, אם משים אדם נגד אור השמש בחלון מחיצות קלות וקלושות לרוב מאד, הן מאפילות כמו מחיצה אחת עבה, ויותר

In the illustration, if one obscures the sunlight streaming through a window with many fine and flimsy curtains, they will darken as much as one thick curtain will, and even more.

וככה ממש הוא בנמשל

This is exactly so in the analogue,

בכל עונות שאדם דש בעקביו

with all those cloud-like sins upon which man tramples indifferently, because they seem to be of little import: they obscure the Divine light by their multitudinous repetition as do many fine curtains, “darkening as much as one thick curtain will, and even more”;

ומכל שכן המפורסמות מדברי רז״ל, שהן ממש כעבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים

and certainly with those sins that our Sages often warned against, that are actually like idolatry, immorality and bloodshed.

כמו העלמת עין מן הצדקה

For example:26 ignoring the needy,

כמו שכתוב: השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו׳

concerning which Scripture writes,27 “Beware lest there be in your heart something unworthy….”

ובליעל היא עבודת אלילים וכו׳

Beliyaal (here translated “unworthy”) is used in reference to idolatry28…, from which we learn that ignoring the needy is likened to idolatry.

והמספר בגנות חבירו, היא לשון הרע, השקולה כעבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים

Or talebearing, the evil tongue, that is equated to idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed.29

וכל הכועס כאילו עובד עבודה זרה

Likewise, the vile-tempered is like the idolatrous,30

וכן מי שיש בו גסות הרוח

and so is the arrogant.31

וכהנה רבות בגמרא

There are many such cases described in the Talmud of sins whose punishment is not as severe as that of idolatry and the like, but which nonetheless effect a similar spiritual blemish,

ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולן

and [the sin of neglecting] the study of the Torah equals them all.

כמאמר רז״ל: ויתר הקב״ה על עבודה זרה וכו׳

As our Sages assert,32 “G‑d has overlooked idolatry, [immorality and bloodshed, but has not overlooked the sin of neglecting Torah study].”

Thus, sins such as ignoring the needy, talebearing, and so on, though not carrying the punishment of excision or death by the hand of heaven, nonetheless sever the soul from its Divine source.

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