[To return to the question posed by] the Maggid [of Mezritch] in Or Torah mentioned above: Where is there an allusion to the concept of the nesirah in the Torah?1

To explain the concept based on the statements of the Gemara:One of the methods of Biblical interpretation is a technique known as gor’in u’mosifin vedorshin. A letter may be taken (gor’in) from one word and added to another word (u’mosifin), after whichan inference is drawn (vedorshin). [For example,] it is written:2 ולקח מדם הפר, “He shall take from the blood of the bull.” [This blood is later sprinkled in the Holy of Holies, on the curtain of the Holy of Holies, and on the inner altar.] Our Sages state (Zevachim 25a) that [the Kohen Gadol] must receive the blood [in a sacramental vesseldirectly from the body] of the bull. If it spills on the ground and he collects it from there, it is unacceptable [for sprinkling]. [How is this concept derived? Through the technique of gor’in u’mosifin vedorshin.] The [first] mem from the word מדם is taken (gor’in) and added to the word הפר (mosifin). [And then the verse is interpreted (vedorshin) as ולקח דם מהפר, “He shall take blood from the bull,” i.e., directly from the bull.]

This is the concept of the nesirah [in the realm of Torah study]: something is taken from one word and added onto another. With regard to Adam, the first man, the nesirah followed the same pattern.

The pattern gor’in u’mosifin vedorshin, “subtracting, adding, and interpreting,” applies to [the conduct of] man [on this] lowly [plane], particularly if he is a baal teshuvah.

One of the attributes of a baal teshuvah is that he must change his pattern of conduct,3 i.e., that he should alter his deeds and ways of conduct. This is what is meant by abandoning sin in actual practice. The degree of change must be drastic, indeed, it must be to the other extreme.4 During the time that a baal teshuvah had turned away from G‑d, he was [spiritually] stonehearted, following his heart’s every whim and desire.5 Nothing at all could restrain his [craving] spirit.

[At that time, he could not restrain himself] even regarding a matter that he himself knew was of critical importance to him. [He had wanted something of genuine value and importance, yet it was not granted to him. Intellectually,] he knew that the reason [G‑d] did not fulfill his desires and longings was because of his unfavorable conduct (either he was being punished [for his undesirable behavior] or [good] was [merely] being withheld from him). Nevertheless, [despite this knowledge,] he could not refrain [from undesirable conduct] because [he was driven by] the whims of his heart (i.e., the fundamental unconstrained nature of his heart’s desires) and because of his attachment to matters of this world and its material concerns.

Accordingly, when [a baal teshuvah] returns to G‑d, the very first thing he must do is distance himself utterly from those things with which he was previously involved. “A nazirite is told: ‘Go away…. Do not come close to the vineyard.’”6

This is what is meant by gor’in, subtracting: that one must diminish [the pursuit of his whims] and distance himself radically from his previous conduct, acting completely opposite to the way he conducted himself before. Previously, he was powerfully [influenced by] evil, Heaven forbid. Nothing would shake him — needless to say, not a G‑dly concern, but not even an intellectual concern — from following the whims of his heart. He was like an actual animal, acting with great strength, like the natural strength [of an animal].

Afterwards, when he is aroused to teshuvah, his entire makeup changes and he shows great strength in matters of holiness. Everything connected with the Torah and G‑dliness causes a great awakening and movement within his soul. Nevertheless, this is still [a result of] his natural strength; [only that now] it has been transformed [and used for] holiness. [He must progress to an even higher level,] transforming his nature entirely, [acquiring] the strength of holiness, which is characterized by “greater prominence and greater power.”7

This is what is meant by mosifin, “adding,” that he draw close to those matters [of holiness] from which he was originally distant, [indeed,] closer than others. While turned away from G‑d and debased, a baal teshuvah was utterly distant from G‑dliness and from any G‑dly matter. He sought merely to follow the whims of his heart. (This is called a dissolute heart. His heart was unchecked and desired everything, as explained in Derech HaChayim.) He was bound to all sorts of material matters and that was his entire being. As a result, he could not become attached to anything G‑dly. How much more so was a feeling of bittul, self-nullification, completely removed from him.

When [such a person] begins the process of teshuvah as a whole, the first step is that he should become close to the matters from which he had originally been distant, [indeed, closer] than others. This is the fundamental aspect of teshuvah [and is more important] than fasts and privations. And this constitutes the Divine service of a baal teshuvah the entire day — from the time he rises early in the morning until he lies down at night — to scrutinize and to watch over himself; to change all of his concerns and ways from what they were originally. He should be utterly removed from those matters to which he was originally so close, and become extremely close to those things from which he was [originally] removed, matters to which he could not be attached at all — G‑dliness and G‑dly matters.

This is the intent of the expression gor’in u’mosifin vedorshin, “subtracting, adding, and interpreting,” that a baal teshuvah should apply the approach of nesirah to his conduct. He should “subtract” from worldly concerns, physical desires, luxuries, and all permitted matters. Instead, he should be satisfied with what is necessary to maintain his body and his health. He should weigh every matter, [evaluating] whether he needs it or not, being extremely precise with himself [in this process]. In all matters, his striving should be [focused on] breaking his desire.

This is a preeminent fundamental principle for a baal teshuvah: to break his individual will. As Rabbeinu Yonah writes in his Shaarei Teshuvah:8 A baal teshuvah must break his desire. He should separate himself from everything he wants or desires, even from things that are permitted. [The rationale for such conduct] is that it was desire that led to his downfall. It caused harm to his soul, motivating him to violate G‑d’s will. Therefore, when he returns to G‑d, he must destroy the fundamental motivating factor that previously caused him to be distant.


A baal teshuvah must change his conduct, changing his nature entirely. This is what is meant by gor’in:reducing one’s attachment to worldly concerns and breaking his desires; and mosifin, adding to [his involvement in] holiness [to an even greater extent than others].