"He forgives [in Hebrew, "nosei"] sins…." (Ex. 34:7)

The word for "forgive" here literally means "carry" or "lift". Based on this, the Baal Shem Tov taught that G‑d elevates the sparks of holiness in the sin, for nothing - not even a sin - could exist unless it contained a spark of holiness. G‑d returns them to their source. This is the essence of forgiveness.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained this idea as follows: It is indeed impossible to elevate a sinful act; such an act is evil, and the only proper treatment for it is to denounce it. In contrast, the power of desire vested in the act is not evil, for it is possible to utilize this power to desire good as well as evil. When we repent properly, we divest our power of desire of its veneer of evil and restore it to its holy source.

Adapted from Tzeva'at HaRibash and Likutei Torah, 4:64d
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org