The folly of sin derives from man's physical nature.

What is man? A composite of body and soul. The soul is spiritual. By its very nature it reaches out to, and strives for, spirituality. The body is material, and thus attracted to the allurements of its own elements, of matter. Yet these two are combined. The soul is removed from its "supernal peak to be vested in the lowly body.

This "descent" is for the purpose of an "ascent": to elevate and sublimate the physicality of the body and the matter to which it is related in its lifetime.

There is tension between body and soul, between matter (and the natural or animalistic life-force that animates and sustains it), and the neshamah, the sublime soul and spirit of man. But they are not irreconcilable.

The body per se is neither evil nor impure. It is potentiality: not- yet-holy, even as it is not-yet-profane.

Man's actions, the actions and behavior of the body-soul compound, determine its fall into the chambers of defilement or its ascent to be absorbed in holiness.

To succeed in elevating and sublimating the body and its share in this world is an elevation for the soul as well. It is precisely the exposure to temptation, the risks of worldliness, the possibility of alternatives and the incumbent free will of man, that allow for achievement, for ultimate self-realization.

"The body of man is a wick, and the light (soul) is kindled above it......"The light on a man's head must have oil, that is, good deeds." The wick by itself is useless if not lit. The flame cannot burn in a vacuum; it cannot produce light nor cling to the wick without oil.

Torah and mitzvot, good deeds, unite the wick and the flame, the body and the soul, to actualize inherent potentiality, to produce a meaningful entity.

The neshamah, the soul, a spark of G‑dliness within us, fills us with practically unlimited potential. Man is granted the power to make of himself whatever he likes, in effect to determine his destiny.

The veracity of mundane temptation, however, is no less real. Sin crouches at the door.

Torah confronts this fact: "There is no man so righteous on earth that he does good and never sins."

If sin was final, the history of mankind would have begun and ended with Adam. The Creator took this into account.

The original intent was to crate the world on the basis of strict justice. As G‑d foresaw that such a world could not endure, He caused the attribute of mercy to precede the attribute of justice and allied them.

"When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He consulted the Torah about creating man. She said to Him: `The man You want to create will sin before You, he will provoke You to anger. If you will deal with him commensurate to his deeds, neither the world nor man will be able to exist before you!' G‑d then replied to the Torah: `Is it for nothing that I am called the Compassionate and Gracious G‑d, long-suffering?'

Thus, before creating the world, the Holy One, blessed be He, created teshuvah (repentance), and said to it: "I am about to create man in the world, but on condition that when they turn to you because of their sins, you shall be ready to erase their sins and to atone for them!"

Teshuvah thus is forever close at hand, and when man returns from his sins, this teshuvah returns to the Holy One, blessed be He, and he atones for all - all judgments are suppressed and sweetened, and man is purified from his sins.

How is he purified from his sins?

By ascending with this teshuvah in proper manner.

Rabbi Isaac said: When he returns before the Supreme King and prays from the depths of his heart, as it is written: "From the depths I call unto You, oh G‑d!"

Torah, the rules and regulations for life, preceded the world and served as its blueprint. These rules demand strict adherence. "But for the Torah, heaven and earth cannot endure, as it is said: `If not for My covenant by day and by night, I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth.'"

Sin means to defeat the purpose of Creation, to deprive creation of all meaning. This must result in the world's reversion to
nothingness. Thus the need for the attribute of mercy, of compassion.

Mercy means to recognize the legitimacy of justice, yet to show compassion, to forgive nonetheless.

Mercy means to recognize the valid demands of the law, but also to temper these demands by considering the fact that "the drive of man's heart is evil yet from his youth." It offers another chance. This is the principle of teshuvah.