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Beyond Punishment & Repair

Beyond Punishment & Repair

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In the times of the First Temple lived very lofty souls. It was their thirst for spiritual ecstasy that led them to worship foreign gods.

Thousands of years later, the holy Ari taught, in the 500 years of forced conversions from the Crusades until the Spanish Expulsion, these souls returned so they could be repaired. Many of the martyrs of that time were men of reason—and for a philosopher to give his life for the sanctity of G–d's name is a very great test. Many did, and so they were healed.

When the Ari came, however, he revealed the secret wisdom and repaired the world so that all souls were healed and no repairs were left to be made. It follows that all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Ari are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?

We do not know.

One thing we do know: That we do not know.


At first, there was punishment. There were prophets who warned the people—for there is no punishment without warning. There were people who understood what they were doing and did it anyways—for there is no punishment without conscious intent. And so, up to and including the destruction of the First Temple, there was punishment.

But then came a time when there were no prophets to provide due warning. And rare was the man who had the power of mind to intentionally sin. The suffering that occurred then, since the time of the Second Temple, cannot be called punishment. Instead it is called "tikun"—healing, repair.

Then came the master of the hidden wisdom, the great Ari. According to the mystics, his teachings repaired the world so that all souls were healed and no repairs were left to be made.

It follows, writes the Mittler Rebbe, that all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Ari are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?

We do not know.

One thing we do know: We know that we do not know.

But simply because the human mind cannot know a thing, does that mean this thing cannot exist? Because we cannot give a reason, is there then no reason?

Or perhaps it simply means that we should be a little more humble, since we are not the ones who made this world. We must wait, and when all the drama is done, then we will know with the knowledge of the Author Himself.

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; words and condensation by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. Subscribe and get your dose daily. Or order Rabbi Freeman’s book, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, click here.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous Toronto, ON August 18, 2011

Re: Tikkun Rabbi Freeman, I still don't understand…You say that the general tikkun has been completed and now we're in the era of the specific tikkun. Can you please explain (1) the difference between general tikkun and specific tikkun, and (2) exactly what the Ari said in his preface to the Eitz HaChaim? Thank you--your response is much appreciated! Reply

Anonymous August 17, 2011

Beyond Punishment & Repair I hope no one gets offended by this but the more I read about The Ari and everything he did I am surprised that he was not mistaken by non Jews as a Chirst like figure. Reply

Anonymous Tarzana, CA August 17, 2011

Maybe that means that... (?) Judaism is not the "be all end all" ?
Maybe we should be more humble to learn also -in addition to Judaism - about other Great Wisdom traditions like Daoism and Buddhism because they seem to have had greater success in healing humanity ? Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman August 17, 2011

Re: TIkkun As I wrote above, the general tikun has been completed. After the general comes the specific. That's where we're at now. Reply

zeynep istanbul August 17, 2011

Re.:Tikkun - an opinion I tend to think that the completeness have been achieved on the collective soul level, at the level of the greater soul of Israel. And that we, as individual souls still in need of repair, are being sustained and nurtured by it without being necessarily conscious of the fact. The more sincerely we yearn for our own individual completeness, the more healing we will be able to draw from the collective soul. Reply

Leah H minneapolis, mn August 17, 2011

Ari comment in your text Can you please elaborate, on what 'secret' was revealed?" When the Ari came, however, he revealed the secret wisdom and repaired the world, so that all souls were healed and no repairs were left to be made." Reply

Anonymous Toronto, Canada August 17, 2011

Tikkun Please elaborate further, Rabbi Freeman...Since there are Jews alive today who have not yet achieved shleimus, completeness --for example, they still have middos in need of refinement/repair--how can it be stated that the tikkun of Jewish souls has long been completed? Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman (author) January 29, 2011

Re: holocaust As the byline says, these daily doses are all taken from the Rebbe's talks and writings. This particular one is from a very moving talk not long before the First Gulf War. The Rebbe cited R' Chaim Vital in his preface to the Eitz Chaim and R' Dov Ber of Lubavitch in his maamarim about the suffering in his time. Based on these sources, it would seem that the general tikun of Jewish souls has been long completed, and now "something else"--whatever that is--is happening. Reply

Anonymous January 25, 2011

holocaust With all due respect, I don't think that the Ari Z.L. has been understood properly.

We are told over and over again that there are no new neshamas (souls) anymore and that everyone is here in this reincarnation to be m'taken/fixed what he didn't m'taken in his previous gigullim. Some for one day-to be born of a Jewish mother and then leave this world, and others for countless other reasons.

We are told that the C.P. children, and the Downs children and the autistic are here to be m'taken some thing or other. They very often know what their tikun is. The rest of us are also here for tikun but we are not so lucky as the autistic. and don't what our tikun is.

And what about the holocaust? Are we not told that it was either a punishment for assimilation, or a collection of sins over hundreds of years, and then the cup was full and could hold no more and then the

destruction came?

And you say in the name of the Ari z.l. that there is no longer tikun or punishment? Reply

Eric S. Kingston CA July 30, 2009

Belief "It follows that all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Ari are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?"

The belief that we still need "repair" instead of just a return. Reply