In the language of the Zohar, the lower level of repentance entails returning the latter hey of the Four-Letter Name of G-d to its rightful place—returning the Shechinah, which is the source of Jewish souls, from the exile to which it was banished by transgression. For when a man sins, the Divine vitality that flows forth from the Shechinah descends into the chambers of kelipah and sitra achara, and from there, that individual in turn derives nurture at the time of his sins. Repentance redeems the Shechinah from its exile and returns the flow to its proper place.

This was the theme of the previous chapter.

However, the true and direct path to the lower level of teshuvah, returning the latter hey as noted above, involves two general elements.

וְאוּלָם, דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת וְהַיָּשָׁר לִבְחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה, הֵ"א תַּתָּאָה הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל – הֵם ב' דְּבָרִים דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל.

These two elements are: (a) awakening G-d’s supreme compassion for his soul, and (b) the subjugation and nullification of evil. Both are necessary in order to ensure that the lower level of repentance will be true and direct.

The Rebbe notes that although we have previously learned (ch. 1) that the kernel of repentance is a firm and wholehearted resolution not to commit a particular sin again, nevertheless, without the two basic elements about to be discussed, such repentance will be neither true nor direct.

Truth implies permanence,1 as in the verse, “The lip of truth shall be established forever.”2 Should one fail to take the preparatory steps about to be mentioned here, it is entirely possible that his forsaking sin—described above as repentance—will not be everlasting, hence not truthful. Furthermore, these steps also make one’s repentance “direct”. For a state of repentance can also be arrived at very indirectly, as in the case of R. Elazar ben Durdaya, who was led to repentance by circumstances which were in themselves evil.3 The direct path to repentance, by contrast, is found by means of the steps that the Alter Rebbe now describes.

The first is to awaken supreme compassion from the Source of mercy for one’s Divine spirit and soul,

הָאֶחָד, הוּא לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים מִמְּקוֹר הָרַחֲמִים עַל נִשְׁמָתוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית,

There are two distinct states of Divine compassion, indicated by the terms “Merciful Father” and “Father of Mercy.”4 The former term (אָב הָרַחֲמָן) merely signifies that G-d possesses the attribute, or middah, of mercy—and since middah means not only “attribute” but also “measure,” it refers to a finite quality of mercy. The latter term (אָב הָרַחֲמִים) stresses the fact that G-d is the father, or fountainhead, of all mercy. Arousing His essential quality of mercy “from the Source of mercy” thus means arousing His infinite measure of compassion—supreme compassion.

that has fallen from a lofty height5 (lit., “rooftop”), the Infinite Source of Life,

שֶׁנָּפְלָה "מֵאִיגְּרָא רָמָה" – חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

into a deep pit,

לְ"בִירָא עֲמִיקְתָּא",

Not merely from a rooftop but from a “lofty rooftop”; not merely into a pit, but into a “deep pit.”

namely, the chambers of defilement and sitra achara.

הֵן הֵיכְלוֹת הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

As explained in the previous chapter, a person’s sins degrade his soul to the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Finding itself in such a sorry state, such a soul is indeed in need of Divine compassion.

[One should arouse Divine compassion] as well for the source [of the soul] in the Source of Life, the Four-Letter Name of G-d.

וְעַל מְקוֹרָהּ בִּמְקוֹר הַחַיִּים, הוּא שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא;

Since the soul is rooted in the Tetragrammaton, its degradation—brought about by sin—correspondingly causes the flow of holiness that emanates from the Tetragrammaton to descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Hence, not only the soul, but its Source too, is to be pitied.

As the verse states: “He shall return to G-d, and He will have compassion for him”6; i.e., the sinner shall return to G-d and have compassion for Him.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְיָשׁוֹב אֶל הַוָיָ' וִירַחֲמֵהוּ",

But how are we to understand the concept of arousing mercy for the Tetragrammaton?

This means arousing compassion for the life-giving power issuing from the Four-Letter Name that has descended by stages into the chambers of the impure sitra achara to give them vitality.

פֵּירוּשׁ, לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים עַל הַשְׁפָּעַת שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלָה וְיָרְדָה תּוֹךְ הֵיכְלוֹת הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא הַטְּמֵאִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

[This descent was brought about] by the deeds of man and his evil schemes and thoughts.

עַל־יְדֵי מַעֲשֵׂה אֱנוֹשׁ וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו, וּמַחְשְׁבוֹתָיו הָרָעוֹת;

Evil thoughts alone suffice to make the vitality descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara.

As the verse says, “The king is bound with gutters,”7 [which is interpreted to mean that “the King is bound] with the gutters of the mind….”8

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "מֶלֶךְ אָסוּר בָּרְהָטִים" – בִּרְהִיטֵי מוֹחָא וְכוּ'

Explanation by the Rebbe: “Gutters” refers to the various channels and gutters of the mind through which thoughts, like gushing currents, rush fleetingly. Thus, even transient evil thoughts that one harbors ephemerally can bind and shackle the King; they can exile the flow of vitality emanating from the Four-Letter Name of G-d.

This state, as noted above,9 is the exile of the Shechinah—the Divine Presence, the level of malchut (“kingship”) of the World of Atzilut.

הִיא בְּחִינַת גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

The auspicious time for this [arousal of compassion] is Tikkun Chatzot, the midnight lament for the exile of the Divine Presence,

וּזְמַן הַמְסוּגָּל לָזֶה, הוּא בְּתִיקּוּן חֲצוֹת,

as pointed out in the note to Tikkun Chatzot in the Siddur; see there at length.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּסִּידּוּר בְּהֶעָרָה, עַיֵּין שָׁם בַּאֲרִיכוּת.

We thus find [in that prayer], “The crown of our head is fallen; woe to us, for we have sinned”10; i.e., sin causes the soul’s Source (“the crown of our head”) to topple into the depths of the kelipot and sitra achara.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב שָׁם: "נָפְלָה עֲטֶרֶת רֹאשֵׁינוּ, אוֹי נָא לָנוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ".

Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, is called the “humiliated King” in Pirkei Heichalot,11 as R. Moshe Cordovero wrote,

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא "מֶלֶךְ עָלוּב" בְּפִרְקֵי הֵיכָלוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמַ"ק זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה,

for there is no humiliation deeper than this, than the ignominy of exile within the realm of the kelipot.

כִּי אֵין לְךָ עֶלְבּוֹן גָּדוֹל מִזֶּה,

Especially when a thoughtful person meditates on the greatness of the Infinite One, Who permeates all worlds and encompasses all worlds, for G-d provides vitality to created beings both in a manner which “permeates” each recipient according to its individual capacity as well as in a manner that transcends and “encompasses” them,

וּבִפְרָט כַּאֲשֶׁר יִתְבּוֹנֵן הַמַּשְׂכִּיל בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין וְסוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין,

each person [meditating upon G-d’s greatness] according to the range of his intellect and understanding,

כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד לְפִי שִׁיעוּר שִׂכְלוֹ וַהֲבָנָתוֹ,

he will be extremely grieved over this.

יִתְמַרְמֵר עַל זֶה מְאֹד מְאֹד.

The richer one’s perception of G-d’s majesty, the more intense will be his feeling of compassion for his own soul and for its Source, the bound and humiliated King.

The second element [in one’s preparation for a true and direct path to repentance] is to crush and subdue the kelipah and sitra achara,

וְהַב', לְבַטֵּשׁ וּלְהַכְנִיעַ הַקְּלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

whose entire being is simply grossness and arrogance,

אֲשֶׁר כָּל חַיּוּתָהּ הִיא רַק בְּחִינַת גַּסּוּת וְהַגְבָּהָה,

as the verse states, “If you exalt yourself like the eagle….”12

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אִם תַּגְבִּיהַּ כַּנֶּשֶׁר וְגוֹ'",

This crushing and subjugation, absolutely to dust, is its death and nullification.

וְהַבִּיטּוּשׁ וְהַהַכְנָעָה עַד עָפָר מַמָּשׁ – זוֹהִי מִיתָתָהּ וּבִיטּוּלָהּ.

[Evil is crushed] through a broken and contrite heart, a sense of personal unworthiness, repugnance, and so forth.

וְהַיְינוּ, עַל־יְדֵי "לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה", וְלִהְיוֹת "נִבְזֶה בְעֵינָיו נִמְאָס" וְכוּ',

As explained in Part I, ch. 29, the animal soul—even of a beinoni, how much more so of a sinner—is the very person himself. When his heart is humbled, his animal soul which derives from kelipah is, of course, humbled as well. Thus, crushing and subduing one’s arrogance crushes the kelipot and sitra achara.

This is described in the Zohar13 on the verse, “Offerings to G-d (Elokim) are a broken spirit; (i.e., the offering consists of breaking the spirit of the kelipot and sitra achara, and this is achieved through) a heart broken and contrite….”14

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ עַל פָּסוּק: "זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה, לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה וְכוּ'",

For all animal offerings are dedicated to G-d (the Tetragrammaton), the attribute of mercy. This is why all verses which speak of offerings to G-d refer to Him with the Tetragrammaton.

כִּי כָּל קָרְבָּן מִן הַבְּהֵמָה – הוּא לְשֵׁם הַוָיָ', הִיא מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

To Elokim, however, the Name indicating the attribute of justice, no animal offering is brought.

אֲבָל לְשֵׁם אֱלֹקִים, הִיא מִדַּת הַדִּין – אֵין מַקְרִיבִין קָרְבַּן בְּהֵמָה,


כִּי אִם

I.e., what is considered an offering to Elokim, for the verse does, after all, state “the offerings to Elokim”?

[the offering is] the shattering and removing of the spirit of defilement and sitra achara. This is the meaning of a “broken spirit.”

לְשַׁבֵּר וּלְהַעֲבִיר רוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא, וְזֶהוּ "רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה".

How is the spirit of the sitra achara broken? When the heart is broken and contrite….15

וְהַאֵיךְ נִשְׁבְּרָה רוּחַ הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא? כְּשֶׁהַ"לֵּב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה" וְכוּ'.