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, as in the verse, “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. 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”. 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,
into a deep pit,
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.
וכמו שכתוב: וישוב אל הוי׳ וירחמהו
As the verse states: “He shall return to G‑d and He will have compassion for him”; i.e., the sinner shall return to G‑d and have compassion for Him.
But how are we to understand the concept of arousing mercy for the Tetragrammaton?
פירוש: לעורר רחמים על השפעת שם הוי׳ ברוך הוא, שנשתלשלה וירדה תוך היכלות הסטרא אחרא הטמאים להחיותם
This means, arousing compassion for the life-giving power issuing from the Four-Letter Name, that has descended by stages into the chambers of the impure sitra achra, to give them vitality.
על ידי מעשה אנוש ותחבולותיו ומחשבותיו הרעים
[This descent was brought about] by the deeds of man, and his evil schemes and thoughts.
Evil thoughts alone suffice to make the vitality descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achra.
וכמו שכתוב: מלך אסור ברהטים, ברהיטי מוחא וכו׳
As the verse says, “The king is bound with gutters,” [which is interpreted to mean that “the King is bound] with the gutters of the mind….”
As explained by the Rebbe, the image is of the various channels and gutters of the mind through which thoughts, like gushing currents, rush fleetingly. Thus, even transient evil thoughts that one harbors ephemerally can bind and shackle the King; they can exile the flow of vitality emanating from the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.
היא בחינת גלות השכינה כנ״ל
And this state, as noted above, is the exile of the Shechinah — the Divine Presence, the level of Malchut (“Kingship”) of the World of Atzilut.
וזמן המסוגל לזה הוא בתיקון חצות
The auspicious time for this [arousal of compassion] is Tikkun Chatzot, the midnight lament for the exile of the Divine Presence,
כמו שכתוב בסדור בהערה, עיין שם באריכות
as pointed out in the note to Tikkun Chatzot in the Siddur; see there at length.
וזה שכתוב שם: נפלה עטרת ראשינו, אוי נא לנו כי חטאנו
We thus find [in that prayer], “The crown of our head is fallen; woe to us, for we have sinned”; i.e., sin causes the soul’s Source (“the crown of our head”) to topple into the depths of the kelipot and sitra achra.
ולכן נקרא הקב״ה מלך עלוב בפרקי היכלות, כמו שכתב הרמ״ק ז״ל
Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, is called the “humiliated King” in Pirkei Heichalot, as R. Moshe Cordovero wrote,
כי אין לך עלבון גדול מזה
for there is no humiliation deeper than this, than the ignominy of exile within the realm of the kelipot.
ובפרט כאשר יתבונן המשכיל בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, ממלא כל עלמין וסובב כל עלמין
Especially when a thoughtful person meditates on the greatness of the Infinite One, Who permeates all worlds and encompasses all worlds, for G‑d provides vitality to created beings both in a manner which “permeates” each recipient according to its individual capacity, as well as in a manner that transcends and “encompasses” them,
כל אחד ואחד לפי שיעור שכלו והבנתו
each person [meditating upon G‑d’s greatness] according to the range of his intellect and understanding,
יתמרמר על זה מאד מאד
he will be extremely grieved over this.
The richer one’s perception of G‑d’s majesty, the more intense will be his feeling of compassion for his own soul and for its Source, the bound and humiliated King.
והב׳: לבטש ולהכניע הקליפה והסטרא אחרא
The second element [in one’s preparation for a true and direct path to repentance] is to crush and subdue the kelipah and sitra achra,
אשר כל חיותה היא רק בחינת גסות והגבהה
whose entire being is simply grossness and arrogance;
כמו שכתוב: אם תגביה כנשר וגו׳
as the verse states, “If you exalt yourself like the eagle….”
והביטוש וההכנעה עד עפר ממש, זוהי מיתתה וביטולה
This crushing and subjugation, absolutely to dust, is its death and nullification.
והיינו: על ידי לב נשבר ונדכה, ולהיות נבזה בעיניו נמאס וכו׳
[Evil is crushed] through a broken and contrite heart, a sense of personal unworthiness, repugnance, and so forth.
As explained in Part I, ch. 29, the animal soul — even of a Beinoni, how much more so of a sinner — is the very person himself. When his heart is humbled, his animal soul which derives from kelipah is, of course, humbled as well. Thus, crushing and subduing one’s arrogance crushes the kelipot and sitra achra.
וכמו שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש, על פסוק: זבחי אלקים רוח נשברה, לב נשבר ונדכה וגו׳
This is described in the Zohar on the verse, “Offerings to G‑d (Elokim) are a broken spirit; (i.e., the offering consists of breaking the spirit of the kelipot and sitra achra, and this is achieved through) a heart broken and contrite….”
כי כל קרבן מן הבהמה הוא לשם הוי׳, היא מדת הרחמים
For all animal offerings are dedicated to G‑d (the Tetragrammaton), the attribute of mercy.
This is why all verses which speak of offerings to G‑d, refer to Him with the Tetragrammaton.
אבל לשם אלקים, היא מדת הדין, אין מקריבין קרבן בהמה
To Elokim, however, the Name indicating the attribute of justice, no animal offering is brought.
I.e., what is considered an offering to Elokim, for the verse does, after all, state “the offerings to Elokim”?
לשבר ולהעביר רוח הטומאה והסטרא אחרא, וזהו רוח נשברה
[the offering is] the shattering and removing of the spirit of defilement and sitra achra. This is the meaning of a “broken spirit.”
והאיך נשברה רוח הסטרא אחרא, כשהלב נשבר ונדכה וכו׳
How is the spirit of the sitra achra broken? When the heart is broken and contrite….