However, the vitality in the drops of semen that one issued wastefully, even though it has been degraded and incorporated in the three unclean kelipot, can nevertheless ascend from there by means of true repentance and intense concentration and devotion (kavanah) during the recital of the Shema at bedtime, as is known from the teachings of our master, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

אַךְ הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבְּטִפּוֹת זֶרַע שֶׁיָּצְאוּ מִמֶּנּוּ לְבַטָּלָה, אַף שֶׁיָּרְדָה וְנִכְלְלָה בְּשָׁלשׁ קְלִיפּוֹת הַטְּמֵאוֹת – הֲרֵי זוֹ עוֹלָה מִשָּׁם בִּתְשׁוּבָה נְכוֹנָה, וּבְכַוָּונָה עֲצוּמָה בִּקְרִיאַת־שְׁמַע־שֶׁעַל־הַמִּטָּה, כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה,

This is implied in the Talmudic saying: “He who recites the Shema at bedtime is as if he held a double-edged sword…,”12

וּמְרוּמָּז בַּגְּמָרָא: "כָּל הַקּוֹרֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע עַל מִטָּתוֹ כְּאִלּוּ אוֹחֵז חֶרֶב שֶׁל שְׁתֵּי פִיּוֹת כוּ'",

meaning one edge wherewith to slay the bodies of the “extraneous forces” (the kelipot) that have become garments for the vitality in the drops of semen and another edge by which the vitality ascends from them (from the kelipot), as is known to the students of the Kabbalah.

לַהֲרוֹג גּוּפוֹת הַחִיצוֹנִים שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ לְבוּשׁ לַחַיּוּת שֶׁבַּטִּפּוֹת, וְעוֹלָה הַחַיּוּת מֵהֶם, כַּיָּדוּעַ לְיוֹדְעֵי חֵן.

Therefore, the sin of wasteful emission of semen is not mentioned in the Torah among the list of forbidden coitions,

וְלָכֵן לֹא הוּזְכַּר עֲוֹן זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה בַּתּוֹרָה בִּכְלַל בִּיאוֹת אֲסוּרוֹת,

even though in one respect it is more heinous than they, and [the individual’s] sin is greater with regard to the enormity and abundance of the impurity and of the kelipot; he begets and multiplies them to an exceedingly great extent through wasteful emission of semen, even more so than through forbidden coitions. I.e., when measured by the “quantity” of kelipot that sin creates, this sin is graver than the forbidden coitions.

אַף שֶׁחָמוּר מֵהֶן, וְגָדוֹל עֲוֹנוֹ בִּבְחִינַת הַגַּדְלוּת וְרִבּוּי הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַקְּלִיפּוֹת שֶׁמּוֹלִיד וּמַרְבֶּה בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד בְּהוֹצָאַת זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה, יוֹתֵר מִבִּיאוֹת אֲסוּרוֹת.

It is only that when measured qualitatively, this sin is different. For in the case of forbidden coitions, one contributes additional strength and vitality to a most unclean kelipah, from which he is powerless to raise up the vitality by means of ordinary repentance,

רַק, שֶׁבְּבִיאוֹת אֲסוּרוֹת מוֹסִיף כֹּחַ וְחַיּוּת בִּקְלִיפָּה טְמֵאָה בְּיוֹתֵר, עַד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהַעֲלוֹת מִשָּׁם הַחַיּוּת בִּתְשׁוּבָה,

unless he repents with such great love that his willful wrongs are transformed into merits.

אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יַעֲשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה מֵאַהֲבָה רַבָּה כָּל כָּךְ, עַד שֶׁזְּדוֹנוֹת נַעֲשׂוּ לוֹ כִּזְכֻיּוֹת.

Since the sin of wasteful emission of semen can be rectified even without “repentance out of love,” the Torah does not include this sin with the related sins of forbidden coition. Concerning this sin, all that is necessary to elevate the degraded vitality to holiness is proper repentance with true intent and devotion during the recitation of the bedtime Shema.

In the note which follows, the Alter Rebbe explains why forbidden coition requires greater repentance than wasteful emission.

The reason is that through forbidden coitions this vitality has been absorbed by the level of yesod in the “female” element of kelipah, which receives and absorbs the vitality from holiness—just as the physical semen is absorbed within the female, in the case of these sins.

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּקְלְטָה בִּיסוֹד דְּנוּקְבָא דִקְלִיפָּה הַמְקַבֶּלֶת וְקוֹלֶטֶת הַחַיּוּת מֵהַקְּדוּשָּׁה,

Not so with wasteful emission of semen, where there is no “female” element of kelipah;

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בְּזֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה, שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בְּחִינַת נוּקְבָא דִקְלִיפָּה,

only its (the kelipah’s) power and forces garb (i.e., encompass) the vitality of the semen, as is known to the students of the Kabbalah.

רַק שֶׁכֹּחוֹתֶיהָ וְחַיְילוֹתֶיהָ מַלְבִּישִׁים לַחַיּוּת שֶׁבַּטִּפּוֹת, כַּיָּדוּﬠַ לְיוֹדְﬠֵי חֵן:

From the above explanation, that the vitality of the forbidden coitions can be released through “repentance out of love,” we will understand that which our Sages say: “Which is ‘a fault that cannot be rectified’?13—Having incestuous intercourse and giving birth to a bastard,”14

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֵיזֶהוּ מְעֻוָּות שֶׁלֹּא יוּכַל לִתְקוֹן – זֶה שֶׁבָּא עַל הָעֶרְוָה וְהוֹלִיד מַמְזֵר",

for then, once the bastard is born, though the sinner undertakes such great repentance as “repentance of great love,” he cannot cause the vitality to ascend to Sanctity,

שֶׁאָז, גַּם אִם יַעֲשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה גְּדוֹלָה כָּל כָּךְ, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לְהַעֲלוֹת הַחַיּוּת לִקְדוּשָּׁה,

since it has already descended into this world and has been clothed in a body of flesh and blood.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁכְּבָר יָרְדָה לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְנִתְלַבְּשָׁה בְּגוּף בָּשָׂר וָדָם:

Even “repentance of great love” cannot rectify this. Still, it is explained elsewhere that if the repentance is powerful enough, it can actually effect the death of the bastard, and once it ceases to be a body of flesh and blood, its vitality can ascend to holiness.15