ומכל מקום, כל בעל נפש החפץ קרבת ה׳, לתקן נפשו, להשיבה אל ה׳ בתשובה מעולה מן המובחר, יחמיר על עצמו

Nevertheless, though it has just been stated that in contemporary generations when excessive fasting causes illness and pain, the fasts of penance should be substituted by charity, every man of spirit who desires to be close to G‑d, to amend his nefesh1 (his soul), to restore it to G‑d with the finest and most preferred repentance, should be stringent with himself.

להשלים על כל פנים פעם אחת כל ימי חייו, מספר הצומות לכל עון ועון מעונות החמורים שחייבין עליהם מיתה על כל פנים, ואפילו בידי שמים בלבד

He should complete, at least once during his lifetime, the number of fasts for every grave sin incurring death at least, if only death by divine agency.

כגון להוצאות זרע לבטלה, פ״ד צומות פעם אחת בימי חייו

For example, for wasteful emission [he should undergo the series of] eight-four fasts once in his life.

ויכול לדחותן לימים הקצרים בחורף, ויתענה כעשר תעניות על דרך משל בחורף אחד או פחות

He may postpone the fasts until the short winter days and fast some ten days or less, for example, in one winter,

ויגמור מספר הפ״ד צומות בט׳ שנים או יותר, כפי כחו

and complete the series of eighty-four in nine or more years, according to his stamina.

וגם יכול לאכול מעט כג׳ שעות לפני נץ החמה, ואף על פי כן נחשב לתענית אם התנה כן

(2Besides, he may also eat a little about three hours before sunrise, and this would still be considered a fast, if he so stipulated.)

ולתשלום רנ״ב צומות כנ״ל, יתענה עוד ד׳ פעמים פ״ד עד אחר חצות היום בלבד

For the completion of the above-mentioned 252 fasts — three times eighty-four, this being the accepted arbitration in the above difference of opinion, so that one undertakes three times the number of fasts prescribed for this specific sin, even if it was committed many times — he may fast another four times eighty-four only until past noon;

דמיחשב גם כן תענית בירושלמי, וב׳ חצאי יום נחשבים לו ליום אחד לענין זה

this, too, the Talmud Yerushalmi3 considers a fast. In this context, moreover, two half-days are reckoned as one full day.

וכן לשאר עונות כיוצא בהן

This approach applies to other, similar sins as well,

Until now the Alter Rebbe addressed himself to those sins which at least incur death by divine agency. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that this approach also applies to sins which do not incur such a harsh penalty but are similarly grave — “similar sins” — such as those which are actually comparable to idolatry, murder, and so on, as mentioned in ch. 7 below. Concerning these sins as well, the Alter Rebbe is saying here, one should be stringent and undertake the required number of fasts at least once in his lifetime.

אשר כל לב יודע מרת נפשו וחפץ בהצדקה

for each heart knows its own anguish and desires its vindication.

And this vindication is enhanced by fasting.

* * *

אכן מספר הצומות העודפים על רנ״ב וכהאי גוונא

However, there still remain the fasts in excess of (for example) the 252, i.e., whatever number exceeds three times the prescribed number of fasts for any particular sin,

שהיה צריך להתענות, לחוש לדעת המחמירים להתענות מספר הצומות שעל כל חטא וחטא כפי מספר הפעמים שחטא כנ״ל

that one ought to fast in deference to the more stringent opinion insisting on the appropriate number of fasts for every violation committed, as noted above.

יפדה כולן בצדקה, ערך ח״י גדולים פוליש בעד כל יום

He may redeem them all by charity to the value of eighteen “gedolim Polish” for each fast-day.

וכן שאר כל תעניות שצריך להתענות על עבירות שאין בהן מיתה

So, too, [charity may redeem] all other fasts that he should have undergone for sins not entailing death,

ואפילו על ביטול מצות עשה דאורייתא ודרבנן

and even for neglecting a positive command, whether explicit in the Torah or Rabbinically ordained,

ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם

and for [neglect of the positive command of]4 “Torah study, which is equivalent to them all,”

כפי המספר המפורש בתיקוני התשובה מהאר״י ז"ל ורובם נזכרים במשנת חסידים במסכת התשובה

according to the number of fasts prescribed by the penances of the AriZal. (5Most of these are noted in Mishnat Chassidim, Tractate Teshuvah.)

הכל אשר לכל יפדה בצדקה כנ״ל, אי לא מצי לצעורי נפשיה כנ"ל

All of these fasts, then, he may redeem as explained above, if he cannot mortify himself, as explained above.

ואף שיעלה לסך מסויים, אין לחוש משום: אל יבזבז יותר מחומש

Though this might amount to a very considerable sum, he need not fear violating the injunction that6 “one should not extravagantly distribute more than one fifth [of one’s property to charity],”

דלא מקרי בזבוז בכהאי גוונא, מאחר שעושה לפדות נפשו מתעניות וסיגופים

for this kind of giving cannot be termed “extravagant distribution,” since he does it to redeem himself from fasting and affliction.

ולא גרעא מרפואת הגוף ושאר צרכיו

This is no less necessary than healing his body or his other needs, in which one does not restrict one’s spending to a fifth of his means.

ולפי שמספר הצומות המוזכרים בתקוני תשובה הנ״ל רבו במאד מאד

Since the number of fasts enumerated in the above-mentioned penances of the AriZal is exceedingly great,

לכן נהגו עכשיו כל החרדים לדבר ה׳ להרבות מאד מאד בצדקה

all who revere the word of G‑d are now accustomed to being unstintingly generous with charity, which is given in place of fasting,

מחמת חלישות הדור, דלא מצו לצעורי נפשם כולי האי

for the prevalent lack of stamina prevents them from mortifying themselves to this extent.

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר על פסוק: חסדי ה׳ כי לא תמנו

(7A comment is made elsewhere on this subject on the words,8 “The kindnesses of G‑d, for they are not concluded.”)

The last three Hebrew words, here translated “for they are not concluded,” may also be interpreted to mean “for we are not perfect.” Accordingly, in Epistle 10 of Iggeret HaKodesh, the Alter Rebbe explains the verse thus: Since “we are not perfect,” burdened as we are by sins that plead for rectification, we are in need of G‑d’s infinite kindness and charity. And in order to elicit kindness and pardon of an infinite order, man for his part must exceed the conventional, finite bounds of charity.