The Alter Rebbe stated in the previous chapter that since prayer is an expression of teshuvah ila'ah, the higher level of return, it must be preceded by the humility and contrition of teshuvah tata'ah, the lower level of return. This is attained by spiritual stocktaking and by arousing Divine compassion upon one's soul, in keeping with the Mishnaic dictum that “one should embark on worship only in an earnest frame of mind,” which is explained by Rashi to mean “humility”.

At the same time, the Alter Rebbe continued, we are also taught that “one should embark on worship only with joy.” Since nowadays most people are incapable of instantly turning their hearts from one extreme to the other, the Alter Rebbe advised that the time for the humbled heart of teshuvah tata'ah be advanced to the Tikkun Chatzot of the preceding midnight, so that when the time for prayer arrives the worshiper will be in a state of joy.

In the present chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that difficulties notwithstanding, it is possible for the heart to simultaneously harbor two opposite emotions — the anguished soul of teshuvah tata'ah and the joy that immediately precedes and accompanies prayer.

ואמנם להיות בלבו ההכנעה, היא בחינת תשובה תתאה הנ"ל וגם השמחה בה' שתיהן ביחד

This subject, simultaneously harboring contrite humility in the heart — the state of teshuvah tata'ah, as explained — and the above — mentioned [contrary emotion of] joy in G‑d, that is also necessary for the service of prayer,

כבר מילתא אמורה בלקוטי אמרים, סוף פרק ל"ד

has already been discussed in Likutei Amarim, at the end of chapter 34.

The Alter Rebbe explained there that these two emotions are not mutually exclusive, since one's contriteness is occasioned by his body and animal soul, while his joy stems from his Divine soul and the G‑dly spark that it houses. Having two distinct causes, the two emotions can lodge together.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to quote the Zohar to this effect:

כמו שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש: חדוה תקיעא בלבאי מסטרא דא וכו'

This is as stated in the Zohar:1 “Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart [and joy is lodged in the other side of my heart].”

This statement was made by R. Elazar ben R. Shimon. Hearing from his father Kabbalistic insights into the Destruction of the Holy Temple, he was at one and the same time heartbroken from his renewed recognition of the enormity of the Destruction — and joyful to be inducted into the mysteries of the Torah. We thus see from the Zohar that two opposite emotions can coexist when they result from two different causes.

ובצירוף עוד האמונה והבטחון, להיות נכון לבו בטוח בה' כי חפץ חסד הוא

Joined to this is faith and confidence, the heart being firm and certain in G‑d — that2 “He delights in kindness,”

וחנון ורחום ורב לסלוח, תיכף ומיד שמבקש מחילה וסליחה מאתו יתברך

and is3 “gracious and merciful” and abundantly forgiving the instant one entreats Him for forgiveness and atonement.

(כרוב רחמיך מחה פשעי

(4As it is written,5 “In accordance with Your abounding compassion, erase my transgressions”;

כבסני, טהרני

or:6 “Cleanse me, purify me”;

וכל עוונותי מחה וכו')

or:7 “Erase all my sins……”)

בלי שום ספק וספק ספיקא בעולם

[The worshiper offers supplications such as the above] without the faintest vestige of doubt.

וכמו שאנו מברכין בכל תפלת שמונה עשרה: תיכף שמבקשים סלח לנו כו', ברוך אתה ה' חנון המרבה לסלוח

For this reason, in every Shemoneh Esreh, the moment we plead, “Pardon us ……,” [we conclude,] “Blessed are You, O G‑d, gracious One Who pardons abundantly.”

והרי ספק ברכות להקל, משום חשש ברכה לבטלה

Now we are forbidden to recite a blessing of doubtful obligation, for fear that it be pronounced in vain.8

Thus, were there even the slightest doubt as to whether G‑d forgives the sinner, we would never have been commanded to recite the above blessing.

אלא אין כאן שום ספק כלל

But there is no doubt here whatsoever,

מאחר שבקשנו: סלח לנו, מחל לנו

for we have asked, “Pardon us, forgive us.”

ואילו לא היינו חוזרים וחוטאים, היינו נגאלין מיד

Furthermore, were we not to repeat our transgressions we would be immediately redeemed,

כמו שאנו מברכין: ברוך אתה ה' גואל ישראל

in accordance with the blessing we recite immediately afterwards, “Blessed are You, O G‑d, Who redeems Israel.”

As the order of the blessings indicates, forgiveness leads to redemption — if not for our relapses.

והרי אפילו במדת בשר ודם כן, שצריך האדם למחול תיכף ומיד שמבקשים ממנו מחילה

Even by human standards [this certainty of pardon is legitimate, for] one must forgive as soon as he is asked for pardon.

ולא יהא אכזרי מלמחול

He must not cruelly withhold his forgiveness

ואפילו בקוטע יד חבירו

even if one were to cut off his hand,

כדאיתא בגמרא, בסוף פרק ח' דבבא קמא

as we find in the Gemara, at the end of chapter 8 of Bava Kama.9

ואם ביקש ממנו ג פעמים ולא מחל לו, שוב אינו צריך לבקש ממנו

So, too, if one has asked his fellow for forgiveness three times and has been rebuffed, he need not apologize further.

והגבעונים, שביקש דוד המלך עליו השלום מהם מחילה בעד שאול, שהמית את הגבעונים, ולא רצו למחול

When King David asked the Gibeonites10 to forgive King Saul who had killed their people and they refused to do so,

גזר דוד עליהם שלא יבאו בקהל ה', שהם רחמנים וכו'

David decreed that they should not enter the congregation of G‑d, i.e., they would never be allowed to convert and thereby join the Jewish people, who are merciful ……,

כדאיתא בפרק ח' דיבמות

as we have learned in Yevamot, end of chapter 8. 11

ובמדת הקב"ה על אחת כמה וכמה לאין קץ

As a Divine trait, how much more certain is it — nay, infinitely more certain — [that forgiveness is swift].

Now if mere mortals are also expected to forgive instantly, what kind of praise is it that we offer the Infinite One in Shemoneh Esreh (the Amidah) by ascribing a like attribute to Him? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now anticipates: