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

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

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

וְלַעֲלוֹת מַעְלָה מַּעְלָה לִמְקוֹרָהּ, וּלְדָבְקָה בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּיִחוּד נִפְלָא,

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

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

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

לֵירֵד לְמַטָּה וּלְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּגוּף הָאָדָם

to descend and be incorporated within the body of man.

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

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

וְזוֹ הִיא תְּשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה.

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.

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

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.

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

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…,

דְּאִיהוּ בֶּן י"ה – בִּינָה 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….

(וּמַעֲלַת בַּעֲלֵי תְשׁוּבָה עַל צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים בָּזֶה הִיא,

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.

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

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)