ואף מי שלא עבר על עון כרת וגם לא על עון מיתה בדי שמים

Even one who has never violated a sin punishable by excision or a sin incurring death by divine agency,

שהוא הוצאת זרע לבטלה וכהאי גוונא

such as vain emission and the like,

אלא שאר עבירות קלות

but other less severe sins,

אף על פי כן, מאחר שהן פוגמים בנשמה ונפש האלקית

nonetheless, since they cause a defect in the spirit and Divine soul,

וכמשל פגימת ופסיקת חבלים דקים כנ״ל

as in the analogy of the fine strands of rope that are defective or severed, as noted above — in ch. 5, which describes the 613 strands that together comprise the lifeline of the soul, and when one transgresses one of the 613 commandments, one of these strands is severed,

הרי בריבוי החטאים יכול להיות פגם כמו בלאו אחד שיש בו כרת ומיתה

therefore, through an accumulation of sins there can eventually be a defect as grave as from one prohibition involving excision or death.

ואפילו בכפילת חטא אחד פעמים רבות

This would be true even when a single sin is repeated numerous times.1

Far from merely damaging the selfsame strand repeatedly, the repetition of even the same sin weakens and jeopardizes the rope as a whole.

כמו שהמשיל הנביא החטאים לענן המאפיל אור השמש

In this manner the prophet compares sins to a cloud that dims the light of the sun.

כמו שנאמר: מחיתי כעב פשעיך

As the verse states,2 “I have erased your transgressions like a thick cloud” (that can dissipate).

הם עבירות חמורות, המבדילים בין פנימית השפעת שם הוי׳ ברוך הוא לנפש האלקית

This refers to the grave sins (3that are barriers) between the internal aspect of the power flowing forth from the Tetragrammaton, and the Divine soul.

כהבדלת ענן עב וחשוך המבדיל בין השמים לארץ ולדרים עליה, על דרך משל

This is like the separation of a thick, dark cloud that stands between the sun and the earth with its inhabitants.4

וכענן חטאתיך, הן עבירות קלות שאדם דש בעקביו

[The above verse continues:] “…and your sins like a cloud.” These are the lesser sins that man tramples under his heel,

המבדילים כהבדלת ענן קל וקלוש, על דרך משל

[sins] that obscure as does a thin and wispy cloud.

והנה, כמו שבמשל הזה, אם משים אדם נגד אור השמש בחלון מחיצות קלות וקלושות לרוב מאד, הן מאפילות כמו מחיצה אחת עבה, ויותר

In the illustration, if one obscures the sunlight streaming through a window with many fine and flimsy curtains, they will darken as much as one thick curtain will, and even more.

וככה ממש הוא בנמשל

This is exactly so in the analogue,

בכל עונות שאדם דש בעקביו

with all those cloud-like sins upon which man tramples indifferently, because they seem to be of little import: they obscure the Divine light by their multitudinous repetition as do many fine curtains, “darkening as much as one thick curtain will, and even more”;

ומכל שכן המפורסמות מדברי רז״ל, שהן ממש כעבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים

and certainly with those sins that our Sages often warned against, that are actually like idolatry, immorality and bloodshed.

כמו העלמת עין מן הצדקה

For example:5 ignoring the needy,

כמו שכתוב: השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו׳

concerning which Scripture writes,6 “Beware lest there be in your heart something unworthy….”

ובליעל היא עבודת אלילים וכו׳

Beliyaal (here translated “unworthy”) is used in reference to idolatry7..., from which we learn that ignoring the needy is likened to idolatry.

והמספר בגנות חבירו, היא לשון הרע, השקולה כעבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים

Or talebearing, the evil tongue, that is equated to idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed.8

וכל הכועס כאילו עובד עבודה זרה

Likewise, the vile-tempered is like the idolatrous,9

וכן מי שיש בו גסות הרוח

and so is the arrogant.10

וכהנה רבות בגמרא

There are many such cases described in the Talmud — of sins whose punishment is not as severe as that of idolatry and the like, but which nonetheless effect a similar spiritual blemish,

ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולן

and [the sin of neglecting] the study of the Torah equals them all.

כמאמר רז״ל: ויתר הקב״ה על עבודה זרה וכו׳

As our Sages assert,11 “G‑d has overlooked idolatry, [immorality and bloodshed, but has not overlooked the sin of neglecting Torah study].”

Thus, sins such as ignoring the needy, talebearing, and so on, though not carrying the punishment of excision or death by the hand of heaven, nonetheless sever the soul from its Divine source.

ולכן סידרו בקריאת שמע שעל המטה, לקבל עליו ד׳ מיתות בית דין וכו׳

For this reason it was ordained that in the course of Keriat Shema at the bedside12 one should accept the four executions of the court, and so on.

This acceptance is recited even by those who have never committed capital sins, because many other sins blemish the soul to the same degree as do those which are punishable by any of the four executions administered by the court.

מלבד שעל פי הסוד כל הפוגם באות יו״ד של שם הוי׳ כאילו נתחייב סקילה

Besides, according to Sod, the mystical dimension of the Torah, causing a defect in the yud of the Tetragrammaton is like incurring lapidation;

והפוגם באות ה״א כאילו נתחייב שריפה

causing a defect in the hei is like incurring burning;

ובאות וי״ו כאילו נתחייב הרג

[causing a defect] in the vav is like incurring the sword;

ובאות ה״א אחרונה כאילו נתחייב חנק

and [causing a defect in] the latter hei is like incurring strangulation.

והמבטל קריאת שמע פוגם באות יו״ד, ותפילין באות ה״א

Neglecting the Shema impairs the yud, and tefillin the hei,

וציצית באות וי״ו ותפלה באות ה״א וכו׳

tzitzit the vav, and prayer the latter hei, and so on.

We thus see that according to the Kabbalah the soul can be blemished through other sins just as by a capital sin. Undertaking the “four executions” clears the soul of these blemishes.

ומזה יוכל המשכיל ללמוד לשאר עונות וחטאים

From this a thinking man can infer for other sins and transgressions (The Rebbe adds: “…which one of the letters of the Tetragrammaton they are related to, and thus, to which manner of execution”),

וביטול תורה כנגד כולן

and for [the sin of] neglecting the study of the Torah, which is equivalent to them all.

All the above lends the thinking person a contrite heart, as he grows aware of the blemish caused even by his supposedly lesser sins.

This contrition is the second preparatory step along the “true and direct” path to the lower level of repentance. For contrition crushes the kelipot and sitra achra and enables a man to repent truthfully, earnestly regretting his past misdeeds and firmly resolving to better his future ways.