Yet one may argue that in reality, this is no option at all. The Talmud states that when one sins because he relies on subsequent teshuvah, G-d does not allow him to practice teshuvah. Since he cannot rely on this, he must sacrifice his life so as not to remain permanently separated from G-d through idolatry. With a minor sin, however, the separation from G-d that it causes is in any case temporary, even without recourse to teshuvah.

We are thus once again left with our original question: How can it be said that the same fear of separation from G-d that motivates a Jew to sacrifice his life with regard to idolatry can also motivate him to refrain from even a minor sin? The two cases are altogether different: the former causes a lasting separation and the latter a momentary one.

The Alter Rebbe answers this objection by clarifying the Talmudic statement on which it is based. The Talmud does not imply, he explains, that the sinner who relies on teshuvah utterly loses his ability to repent, but rather that the Divine assistance usually granted to a penitent sinner is withheld from him.

Thus, one could, after all, submit to coercion and practice idolatry and rely on teshuvah to save him from a lasting separation from G-d. Yet no Jew would take advantage of this resource; the love of G-d innate in every Jew dictates that he sacrifice his life rather than bear the temporary separation caused by idolatry.

This discussion is contained in the following paragraphs.

(3Although the Talmud states that “He who says, I will sin and repent, [sin and repent]’ is not given an opportunity [to do so],”4

[וְאַף שֶׁ"הָאוֹמֵר אֶחֱטָא וְאָשׁוּב – אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין כוּ'",

this means merely that G-d does not aid such a sinner, granting him the auspicious occasion to repent.

הַיְינוּ, שֶׁאֵין מַחֲזִיקִים יָדוֹ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ שְׁעַת הַכּוֹשֶׁר לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה,

Generally, G-d grants one who wishes to repent the necessary power and the opportune moment to realize his good intentions. However, where one’s reliance on teshuvah formed the basis for his sin, he is lent neither the strength nor the opportunity.

If, however, he seizes the opportunity himself and he repents, “Nothing can stand in the way of repentance.”5)

אֲבָל אִם דָּחַק הַשָּׁעָה וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה – אֵין לְךָ דָּבָר שֶׁעוֹמֵד בִּפְנֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה.]

Thus, even in the case of idolatry, one could conceivably rely on teshuvah to prevent a lasting separation from G-d.

Nevertheless, every Jew is prepared and ready to suffer martyrdom for the sanctification of G-d’s Name

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, כָּל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל מוּכָן וּמְזוּמָּן לִמְסוֹר נַפְשׁוֹ עַל קְדוּשַּׁת ה',

and will not perform an idolatrous act lit., “to bow down before an idol” even temporarily, with the intention of repenting afterward—indicating that the fear of even a temporary separation from G-d is sufficient motivation for self-sacrifice.

שֶׁלֹּא לְהִשְׁתַּחֲווֹת לַעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה אֲפִילוּ לְפִי שָׁעָה וְלַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה אַחַר כָּךְ,

This is because of the Divine light which is clothed in his soul, as explained above, which does not come within the realm of time at all but transcends time, and therefore, in relation to this light, every action is eternal; furthermore, as is known, this Divine light rules and dominates time—not only is it not governed by the laws of time, but on the contrary, it governs them.

וְהַיְינוּ, מִפְּנֵי אוֹר ה' הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּנַפְשָׁם כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, שֶׁאֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת זְמַן וְשָׁעָה כְּלָל, אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַזְּמַן, וְשַׁלִּיט וּמוֹשֵׁל עָלָיו, כַּנּוֹדָע.

Thus, an action which took but a moment (and, judged by temporal standards, has no value) can become more momentous than one which takes much longer.6

Since the Divine light clothed in the soul transcends and dominates time, it does not permit any separation from G-d, no matter how short its duration.