After the “wind [of forgiveness] passes over [the souls of sinners] and purifies them,”7

וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁ"רוּחַ עָבְרָה וַתְּטַהֲרֵם",

then their souls are enabled to return literally unto G-d Himself,

אֲזַי תּוּכַל נַפְשָׁם לָשׁוּב עַד הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַמָּשׁ,

to ascend the greatest heights, to their very Source, and cleave to Him with a remarkable unity,

וְלַעֲלוֹת מַעְלָה מַּעְלָה לִמְקוֹרָהּ, וּלְדָבְקָה בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּיִחוּד נִפְלָא,

in ultimate union with Him, just as before the soul was blown forth by the breath of His mouth

כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה מְיוּחֶדֶת בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, בְּטֶרֶם שֶׁנְּפָחָהּ בְּרוּחַ פִּיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ

to descend and be incorporated within the body of man.

לֵירֵד לְמַטָּה וּלְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּגוּף הָאָדָם

(8To illustrate this unity: Before one exhales, the breath is one with the person, inseparably.)

(וּכְמוֹ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, בְּאָדָם הַנּוֹפֵחַ בְּרוּחַ פִּיו, בְּטֶרֶם שֶׁיּוֹצֵא הָרוּחַ מִפִּיו – הוּא מְיוּחָד בְּנַפְשׁוֹ).

Likewise, just as the soul was utterly united with G-d before it was “blown” or “breathed” into the body, so, too, does it now unite with Him after repentance.

This is perfect return—teshuvah.

וְזוֹ הִיא תְּשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה.

This state of unity and this return are called teshuvah ilaah, the higher level of repentance, that follows teshuvah tataah, the lower level of repentance.

וְהִנֵּה, בְּחִינַת יִחוּד זֶה וּתְשׁוּבָה זוֹ, הִיא בְּחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה עִילָּאָה שֶׁלְּאַחַר תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה,

The Zohar, in Raaya Mehemna (Parashat Nasso),9 explains that teshuvah ilaah means engaging in the study of the Torah in awe and love of the Holy One, blessed be He…,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא פָּרָשַׁת נָשֹׂא, דִּתְשׁוּבָה עִילָּאָה הִיא, דְּיִתְעַסֵּק בְּאוֹרַיְיתָא בִּדְחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ דְּקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא וְכוּ',

The Zohar goes on to say that doing so makes one worthy of the revelation of the letter vav of the Tetragrammaton,

for this [letter vav] is the child of yud-hey, or binah….

דְּאִיהוּ בֶּן י"ה – בִּינָה וְכוּ'

Binah is the level of teshuvah ilaah, the return of the higher letter hey of the Tetragrammaton. The word itself is a composite of the words “ben yud-hey.” This alludes to the spiritual emotions of love and fear (represented by the letter vav) that are born of the intellective levels of the Tetragrammaton, the yud of chochmah and the hey of binah.

(10Herein lies the superiority of penitents over the perfectly saintly.

(וּמַעֲלַת בַּעֲלֵי תְשׁוּבָה עַל צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים בָּזֶה הִיא,

Seemingly, the study of the Torah permeated with love and fear of G-d is not the unique prerogative of penitents; the perfectly saintly do this as well. Wherein lies the superiority of baalei teshuvah?

As the Zohar states in Parashat Chayei Sarah, “They draw upon themselves with a more intense longing of the heart, and with greater forcefulness, to approach the King….”11)

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ פָּרָשַׁת חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, דְּאִינוּן מָשְׁכֵי עֲלַיְיהוּ בִּרְעוּתָא דְלִבָּא יַתִּיר וּבְחֵילָא סַגִּי לְאִתְקָרְבָא לְמַלְכָּא וְכוּ'):