Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone
Contact Us
Visit us on Facebook
Tanya
Tanya Navigator
E-mail

Though fasting is not at all necessary for attaining atonement, it was explained above that nevertheless it has a salutary effect as a substitute for the olah offering. In Temple times this sacrifice was offered (even) for transgressing a positive command, in order to make the former offender once again acceptable and beloved of G‑d. Accordingly, the AriZal derived from the Kabbalah the number of fasts to be undertaken for numerous transgressions, even those that are not subject to the punishment of excision or death by Divine decree.

והנה חכמי המוסר האחרונים נחלקו במי שחטא חטא אחד פעמים רבות

The latter Mussar sages — those who lived after the Ari — were divided in their opinions about one who repeated a sin many times.

דיש אומרים שצריך להתענות מספר הצומות לאותו חטא פעמים רבות, כפי המספר אשר חטא

Some contend that he must fast the number of fasts appropriate to that sin according to the number of transgressions.

כגון המוציא זרע לבטלה, שמספר הצומות המפורש בתיקוני תשובה מהאריז״ל הן פ״ד תעניות

For example, the number of fasts prescribed in the penances of the AriZal for wasteful emission of semen is eighty-four.

ואם חטא בזה עשר או עשרים פעמים, על דרך משל, צריך להתענות עשר או עשרים פעמים פ״ד

If someone commits this sin ten or twenty times, say, he must fast ten or twenty times eighty-four, and so on in all instances.

דומיא דקרבן חטאת, שחייב להביא על כל פעם ופעם

This is comparable to the chatat offering (Note of the Rebbe: “i.e., all the chatat offerings”) required for every instance of violation.

ויש מדמין ענין זה לקרבן עולה, הבאה על מצות עשה

Others compare these fasts to the olah offering brought for neglect of a positive command.1

דאפילו עבר על כמה מצוות עשה, מתכפר בעולה אחת, כדאיתא בגמרא, פרק קמא דזבחים

The violation of a number of positive commands is atoned for and the individual finds favor in G‑d’s eyes by one olah, as the Talmud explains in Tractate Zevachim, ch. 1.2

והכרעה המקובלת בזה להתענות ג׳ פעמים כפי מספר הצומות דחטא זה, דהיינו רנ״ב צומות על הוצאות שכבת זרע לבטלה, וכן בשאר חטאים ועונות

The accepted decision in this dispute is to undertake three times the number of fasts prescribed for that particular sin, i.e., 252 fasts (three times eighty-four) for wasteful emission, and similarly for other sins oft repeated.

והטעם הוא על פי מה שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש, סוף פרשת נח: כיון דחב בר נש קמיה קודשא בריך הוא, זמנא חדא עביד רשימו כו׳

This is based on a teaching in the Zohar, at the end of Parshat Noach:3 “As soon as mortal man sins once against the Holy One, blessed be He, he makes an impression [Above; should he sin a second time, the impact of his sin is even greater];

זמנא תליתאה, אתפשט ההוא כתמא מסטרא דא לסטרא דא כו׳

the third time he commits the sin, the stain penetrates from one side through the other;...“

לכן צריך מספר הצומות גם כן ג׳ פעמים וכו׳

therefore the number of fasts ought also be three.

אבל כל זה באדם חזק ובריא, שאין ריבוי הצומות מזיק לו כלל לבריאות גופו, וכמו בדורות הראשונים

However, all this4 applies to the strong and robust, whose physical health would not be harmed at all by repeated fasts, as in the generations of yore.

אבל מי שריבוי הצומות מזיק לו, שאפשר שיבוא לידי חולי או מיחוש, חס ושלום, כמו בדורותינו אלה

But whoever would be affected by many fasts, and might thereby suffer illness or pain, G‑d forbid, as in contemporary generations,

אסור לו להרבות בתעניות, אפילו על כריתות ומיתות בית דין, ומכל שכן על מצוות עשה ומצוות לא תעשה שאין בהן כרת

is forbidden to undertake numerous fasts, even for sins punishable by excision or execution, and certainly not for [violation of] the positive and prohibitive commands that do not involve excision.

אלא כפי אשר ישער בנפשו שבודאי לא יזיק לו כלל

Instead [the measure of fasting is] the personal estimate of what will not harm him at all.

כי אפילו בדורות הראשונים, בימי תנאים ואמוראים, לא היו מתענין בכהאי גוונא אלא הבריאים, דמצו לצעורי נפשייהו

For even in those early generations, in the times of the Tannaim and Amoraim, only the robust who could mortify themselves fasted so frequently.

ודלא מצי לצעורי נפשיה ומתענה, נקרא חוטא בגמרא, פרק קמא דתענית

But whoever cannot fast yet does so, is called a “sinner” in Tractate Taanit, ch. 1.5

ואפילו מתענה על עבירות שבידו, כדפירש רש״י שם

This applies even to one who fasts for specifically known sins, as Rashi explains there,

The very same author of the opinion that he who fasts frequently is considered “holy”, because (as Rashi explains) his sins are thereby expunged, goes on to state that he is considered a sinner if he cannot fast yet does so.

וכדאיתא בגמרא, פרק קמא דזבחים, שאין לך אדם מישראל שאינו מחויב עשה וכו׳

and it is written in Tractate Zevachim, ch. 1,6 that “there is no one of Israel who is not guilty of [transgressing] a positive commandment…,”

Thus, though there are always sins for which one should fast, one should do so only if this will in no way impair his health; otherwise, he is considered a sinner,

ומכל שכן מי שהוא בעל תורה, שחוטא ונענש בכפליים

especially if he is a student of Torah, in which case he is doubly punished,

כי מחמת חלישות התענית, לא יוכל לעסוק בה כראוי

for the weakness resulting from his fast prevents him from studying Torah properly.

אלא מה תקנתיה

What, then, is his remedy?

I.e., what is such a person to do in order to be beloved by his Creator as he was before his sin?

כדכתיב: וחטאך בצדקה פרוק

He should comply with the verse that says,7 “Redeem your sin with charity.”

וכמו שכתבו הפוסקים, ליתן בעד כל יום תענית של תשובה ערך ח״י גדולים פוליש

And, indeed, the codifiers of Torah law specified that one should donate the equivalent of eighteen [large Polish] coins called “gedolim Polish” for each day of repentance.

והעשיר יוסיף לפי עשרו וכו׳

The wealthy should add to this amount for the redemption of each fast-day according to his means,

כמו שכתב המגן אברהם, הלכות תענית

as stated in Magen Avraham in the Laws of Fasts.8

* * *

ומכל מקום, כל בעל נפש החפץ קרבת ה׳, לתקן נפשו, להשיבה אל ה׳ בתשובה מעולה מן המובחר, יחמיר על עצמו

Nevertheless, though it has just been stated that in contemporary generations when excessive fasting causes illness and pain, the fasts of penance should be substituted by charity, every man of spirit who desires to be close to G‑d, to amend his nefesh9 (his soul), to restore it to G‑d with the finest and most preferred repentance, should be stringent with himself.

להשלים על כל פנים פעם אחת כל ימי חייו, מספר הצומות לכל עון ועון מעונות החמורים שחייבין עליהם מיתה על כל פנים, ואפילו בידי שמים בלבד

He should complete, at least once during his lifetime, the number of fasts for every grave sin incurring death at least, if only death by divine agency.

כגון להוצאות זרע לבטלה, פ״ד צומות פעם אחת בימי חייו

For example, for wasteful emission [he should undergo the series of] eight-four fasts once in his life.

ויכול לדחותן לימים הקצרים בחורף, ויתענה כעשר תעניות על דרך משל בחורף אחד או פחות

He may postpone the fasts until the short winter days and fast some ten days or less, for example, in one winter,

ויגמור מספר הפ״ד צומות בט׳ שנים או יותר, כפי כחו

and complete the series of eighty-four in nine or more years, according to his stamina.

וגם יכול לאכול מעט כג׳ שעות לפני נץ החמה, ואף על פי כן נחשב לתענית אם התנה כן

(10Besides, he may also eat a little about three hours before sunrise, and this would still be considered a fast, if he so stipulated.)

ולתשלום רנ״ב צומות כנ״ל, יתענה עוד ד׳ פעמים פ״ד עד אחר חצות היום בלבד

For the completion of the above-mentioned 252 fasts — three times eighty-four, this being the accepted arbitration in the above difference of opinion, so that one undertakes three times the number of fasts prescribed for this specific sin, even if it was committed many times — he may fast another four times eighty-four only until past noon;

דמיחשב גם כן תענית בירושלמי, וב׳ חצאי יום נחשבים לו ליום אחד לענין זה

this, too, the Talmud Yerushalmi11 considers a fast. In this context, moreover, two half-days are reckoned as one full day.

וכן לשאר עונות כיוצא בהן

This approach applies to other, similar sins as well,

Until now the Alter Rebbe addressed himself to those sins which at least incur death by divine agency. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that this approach also applies to sins which do not incur such a harsh penalty but are similarly grave — “similar sins” — such as those which are actually comparable to idolatry, murder, and so on, as mentioned in ch. 7 below. Concerning these sins as well, the Alter Rebbe is saying here, one should be stringent and undertake the required number of fasts at least once in his lifetime.

אשר כל לב יודע מרת נפשו וחפץ בהצדקה

for each heart knows its own anguish and desires its vindication.

And this vindication is enhanced by fasting.

* * *

אכן מספר הצומות העודפים על רנ״ב וכהאי גוונא

However, there still remain the fasts in excess of (for example) the 252, i.e., whatever number exceeds three times the prescribed number of fasts for any particular sin,

שהיה צריך להתענות, לחוש לדעת המחמירים להתענות מספר הצומות שעל כל חטא וחטא כפי מספר הפעמים שחטא כנ״ל

that one ought to fast in deference to the more stringent opinion insisting on the appropriate number of fasts for every violation committed, as noted above.

יפדה כולן בצדקה, ערך ח״י גדולים פוליש בעד כל יום

He may redeem them all by charity to the value of eighteen “gedolim Polish” for each fast-day.

וכן שאר כל תעניות שצריך להתענות על עבירות שאין בהן מיתה

So, too, [charity may redeem] all other fasts that he should have undergone for sins not entailing death,

ואפילו על ביטול מצות עשה דאורייתא ודרבנן

and even for neglecting a positive command, whether explicit in the Torah or Rabbinically ordained,

ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם

and for [neglect of the positive command of]12 “Torah study, which is equivalent to them all,”

כפי המספר המפורש בתיקוני התשובה מהאר״י ז"ל ורובם נזכרים במשנת חסידים במסכת התשובה

according to the number of fasts prescribed by the penances of the AriZal. (13Most of these are noted in Mishnat Chassidim, Tractate Teshuvah.)

הכל אשר לכל יפדה בצדקה כנ״ל, אי לא מצי לצעורי נפשיה כנ"ל

All of these fasts, then, he may redeem as explained above, if he cannot mortify himself, as explained above.

ואף שיעלה לסך מסויים, אין לחוש משום: אל יבזבז יותר מחומש

Though this might amount to a very considerable sum, he need not fear violating the injunction that14 “one should not extravagantly distribute more than one fifth [of one’s property to charity],”

דלא מקרי בזבוז בכהאי גוונא, מאחר שעושה לפדות נפשו מתעניות וסיגופים

for this kind of giving cannot be termed “extravagant distribution,” since he does it to redeem himself from fasting and affliction.

ולא גרעא מרפואת הגוף ושאר צרכיו

This is no less necessary than healing his body or his other needs, in which one does not restrict one’s spending to a fifth of his means.

ולפי שמספר הצומות המוזכרים בתקוני תשובה הנ״ל רבו במאד מאד

Since the number of fasts enumerated in the above-mentioned penances of the AriZal is exceedingly great,

לכן נהגו עכשיו כל החרדים לדבר ה׳ להרבות מאד מאד בצדקה

all who revere the word of G‑d are now accustomed to being unstintingly generous with charity, which is given in place of fasting,

מחמת חלישות הדור, דלא מצו לצעורי נפשם כולי האי

for the prevalent lack of stamina prevents them from mortifying themselves to this extent.

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר על פסוק: חסדי ה׳ כי לא תמנו

(15A comment is made elsewhere on this subject on the words,16 “The kindnesses of G‑d, for they are not concluded.”)

The last three Hebrew words, here translated “for they are not concluded,” may also be interpreted to mean “for we are not perfect.” Accordingly, in Epistle 10 of Iggeret HaKodesh, the Alter Rebbe explains the verse thus: Since “we are not perfect,” burdened as we are by sins that plead for rectification, we are in need of G‑d’s infinite kindness and charity. And in order to elicit kindness and pardon of an infinite order, man for his part must exceed the conventional, finite bounds of charity.

FOOTNOTES
1. Note of the Rebbe: “As distinct from other olah offerings; see the various types of offerings in Maimonides‘ preface to his Commentary on the Mishnayot of Tractate Kodashim.”
2. 5b, 6a, 7b.
3. 73b.
4. Note of the Rebbe: “Concerning all the laws about to be stated, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 571 and its commentaries; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZaken, Hilchot Nizkei Guf veNefesh, Sub-section 4.”
5. Note of the Rebbe: “End of p. 11a; see also Rambam, Hilchot Deot, beg. of ch. 3, and commentators ad loc.”
6. 7a, and see Rashi there.
7. Daniel 4:24.
8. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 568:12, and commentaries.
9. Note of the Rebbe: “In this and all similar contexts, the term specifically used is nefesh [as distinct from the other four terms for the various levels of the soul] — possibly in view of the statement in the Zohar III (24b) and Sefer HaGilgulim, et al., that ’it is specifically the level of nefesh that sins.‘”
10. Parentheses are in the original text.
11. Nedarim 8:1.
12. Peah 1:1.
13. Parentheses are in the original text.
14. Ketubbot 50a.
15. Parentheses are in the original text.
16. Eichah 3:22.
Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (1)
July 30, 2012
252
I'm glad that tzedakah (charity) can replace 252 fasts, if I read this correctly.
Jeff B
West Palm Beach, FL
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG