Chapter 7

פרק ז

In the language of the Zohar, the lower level of repentance entails returning the latter hey of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d to its rightful place—returning the Shechinah, which is the source of Jewish souls, from the exile to which it was banished by transgression. For when a man sins, the Divine vitality that flows forth from the Shechinah descends into the chambers of kelipah and sitra achara, and from there, that individual in turn derives nurture at the time of his sins. Repentance redeems the Shechinah from its exile and returns the flow to its proper place.

This was the theme of the previous chapter.

However, the true and direct path to the lower level of teshuvah, returning the latter hey as noted above, involves two general elements.

וְאוּלָם, דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת וְהַיָּשָׁר לִבְחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה, הֵ"א תַּתָּאָה הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל – הֵם ב' דְּבָרִים דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל.

These two elements are: (a) awakening G‑d’s supreme compassion for his soul, and (b) the subjugation and nullification of evil. Both are necessary in order to ensure that the lower level of repentance will be true and direct.

The Rebbe notes that although we have previously learned (ch. 1) that the kernel of repentance is a firm and wholehearted resolution not to commit a particular sin again, nevertheless, without the two basic elements about to be discussed, such repentance will be neither true nor direct.

Truth implies permanence,1 as in the verse, “The lip of truth shall be established forever.”2 Should one fail to take the preparatory steps about to be mentioned here, it is entirely possible that his forsaking sin—described above as repentance—will not be everlasting, hence not truthful. Furthermore, these steps also make one’s repentance “direct”. For a state of repentance can also be arrived at very indirectly, as in the case of R. Elazar ben Durdaya, who was led to repentance by circumstances which were in themselves evil.3 The direct path to repentance, by contrast, is found by means of the steps that the Alter Rebbe now describes.

The first is to awaken supreme compassion from the Source of mercy for one’s Divine spirit and soul,

הָאֶחָד, הוּא לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים מִמְּקוֹר הָרַחֲמִים עַל נִשְׁמָתוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית,

There are two distinct states of Divine compassion, indicated by the terms “Merciful Father” and “Father of Mercy.”4 The former term (אָב הָרַחֲמָן) merely signifies that G‑d possesses the attribute, or middah, of mercy—and since middah means not only “attribute” but also “measure,” it refers to a finite quality of mercy. The latter term (אָב הָרַחֲמִים) stresses the fact that G‑d is the father, or fountainhead, of all mercy. Arousing His essential quality of mercy “from the Source of mercy” thus means arousing His infinite measure of compassion—supreme compassion.

that has fallen from a lofty height5 (lit., “rooftop”), the Infinite Source of Life,

שֶׁנָּפְלָה "מֵאִיגְּרָא רָמָה" – חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

into a deep pit,

לְ"בִירָא עֲמִיקְתָּא",

Not merely from a rooftop but from a “lofty rooftop”; not merely into a pit, but into a “deep pit.”

namely, the chambers of defilement and sitra achara.

הֵן הֵיכְלוֹת הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

As explained in the previous chapter, a person’s sins degrade his soul to the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Finding itself in such a sorry state, such a soul is indeed in need of Divine compassion.

[One should arouse Divine compassion] as well for the source [of the soul] in the Source of Life, the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

וְעַל מְקוֹרָהּ בִּמְקוֹר הַחַיִּים, הוּא שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא;

Since the soul is rooted in the Tetragrammaton, its degradation—brought about by sin—correspondingly causes the flow of holiness that emanates from the Tetragrammaton to descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara. Hence, not only the soul, but its Source too, is to be pitied.

As the verse states: “He shall return to G‑d, and He will have compassion for him”6; i.e., the sinner shall return to G‑d and have compassion for Him.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְיָשׁוֹב אֶל הַוָיָ' וִירַחֲמֵהוּ",

But how are we to understand the concept of arousing mercy for the Tetragrammaton?

This means arousing compassion for the life-giving power issuing from the Four-Letter Name that has descended by stages into the chambers of the impure sitra achara to give them vitality.

פֵּירוּשׁ, לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים עַל הַשְׁפָּעַת שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלָה וְיָרְדָה תּוֹךְ הֵיכְלוֹת הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא הַטְּמֵאִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

[This descent was brought about] by the deeds of man and his evil schemes and thoughts.

עַל־יְדֵי מַעֲשֵׂה אֱנוֹשׁ וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו, וּמַחְשְׁבוֹתָיו הָרָעוֹת;

Evil thoughts alone suffice to make the vitality descend into the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara.

As the verse says, “The king is bound with gutters,”7 [which is interpreted to mean that “the King is bound] with the gutters of the mind….”8

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "מֶלֶךְ אָסוּר בָּרְהָטִים" – בִּרְהִיטֵי מוֹחָא וְכוּ'

Explanation by the Rebbe: “Gutters” refers to the various channels and gutters of the mind through which thoughts, like gushing currents, rush fleetingly. Thus, even transient evil thoughts that one harbors ephemerally can bind and shackle the King; they can exile the flow of vitality emanating from the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

This state, as noted above,9 is the exile of the Shechinah—the Divine Presence, the level of malchut (“kingship”) of the World of Atzilut.

הִיא בְּחִינַת גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

The auspicious time for this [arousal of compassion] is Tikkun Chatzot, the midnight lament for the exile of the Divine Presence,

וּזְמַן הַמְסוּגָּל לָזֶה, הוּא בְּתִיקּוּן חֲצוֹת,

as pointed out in the note to Tikkun Chatzot in the Siddur; see there at length.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּסִּידּוּר בְּהֶעָרָה, עַיֵּין שָׁם בַּאֲרִיכוּת.

We thus find [in that prayer], “The crown of our head is fallen; woe to us, for we have sinned”10; i.e., sin causes the soul’s Source (“the crown of our head”) to topple into the depths of the kelipot and sitra achara.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב שָׁם: "נָפְלָה עֲטֶרֶת רֹאשֵׁינוּ, אוֹי נָא לָנוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ".

Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, is called the “humiliated King” in Pirkei Heichalot,11 as R. Moshe Cordovero wrote,

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא "מֶלֶךְ עָלוּב" בְּפִרְקֵי הֵיכָלוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמַ"ק זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה,

for there is no humiliation deeper than this, than the ignominy of exile within the realm of the kelipot.

כִּי אֵין לְךָ עֶלְבּוֹן גָּדוֹל מִזֶּה,

Especially when a thoughtful person meditates on the greatness of the Infinite One, Who permeates all worlds and encompasses all worlds, for G-d provides vitality to created beings both in a manner which “permeates” each recipient according to its individual capacity as well as in a manner that transcends and “encompasses” them,

וּבִפְרָט כַּאֲשֶׁר יִתְבּוֹנֵן הַמַּשְׂכִּיל בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין וְסוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין,

each person [meditating upon G‑d’s greatness] according to the range of his intellect and understanding,

כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד לְפִי שִׁיעוּר שִׂכְלוֹ וַהֲבָנָתוֹ,

he will be extremely grieved over this.

יִתְמַרְמֵר עַל זֶה מְאֹד מְאֹד.

The richer one’s perception of G‑d’s majesty, the more intense will be his feeling of compassion for his own soul and for its Source, the bound and humiliated King.

The second element [in one’s preparation for a true and direct path to repentance] is to crush and subdue the kelipah and sitra achara,

וְהַב', לְבַטֵּשׁ וּלְהַכְנִיעַ הַקְּלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

whose entire being is simply grossness and arrogance,

אֲשֶׁר כָּל חַיּוּתָהּ הִיא רַק בְּחִינַת גַּסּוּת וְהַגְבָּהָה,

as the verse states, “If you exalt yourself like the eagle….”12

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אִם תַּגְבִּיהַּ כַּנֶּשֶׁר וְגוֹ'",

This crushing and subjugation, absolutely to dust, is its death and nullification.

וְהַבִּיטּוּשׁ וְהַהַכְנָעָה עַד עָפָר מַמָּשׁ – זוֹהִי מִיתָתָהּ וּבִיטּוּלָהּ.

[Evil is crushed] through a broken and contrite heart, a sense of personal unworthiness, repugnance, and so forth.

וְהַיְינוּ, עַל־יְדֵי "לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה", וְלִהְיוֹת "נִבְזֶה בְעֵינָיו נִמְאָס" וְכוּ',

As explained in Part I, ch. 29, the animal soul—even of a beinoni, how much more so of a sinner—is the very person himself. When his heart is humbled, his animal soul which derives from kelipah is, of course, humbled as well. Thus, crushing and subduing one’s arrogance crushes the kelipot and sitra achara.

This is described in the Zohar13 on the verse, “Offerings to G‑d (Elokim) are a broken spirit; (i.e., the offering consists of breaking the spirit of the kelipot and sitra achara, and this is achieved through) a heart broken and contrite….”14

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ עַל פָּסוּק: "זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה, לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה וְכוּ'",

For all animal offerings are dedicated to G‑d (the Tetragrammaton), the attribute of mercy. This is why all verses which speak of offerings to G‑d refer to Him with the Tetragrammaton.

כִּי כָּל קָרְבָּן מִן הַבְּהֵמָה – הוּא לְשֵׁם הַוָיָ', הִיא מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

To Elokim, however, the Name indicating the attribute of justice, no animal offering is brought.

אֲבָל לְשֵׁם אֱלֹקִים, הִיא מִדַּת הַדִּין – אֵין מַקְרִיבִין קָרְבַּן בְּהֵמָה,


כִּי אִם

I.e., what is considered an offering to Elokim, for the verse does, after all, state “the offerings to Elokim”?

[the offering is] the shattering and removing of the spirit of defilement and sitra achara. This is the meaning of a “broken spirit.”

לְשַׁבֵּר וּלְהַעֲבִיר רוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא, וְזֶהוּ "רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה".

How is the spirit of the sitra achara broken? When the heart is broken and contrite….15

וְהַאֵיךְ נִשְׁבְּרָה רוּחַ הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא? כְּשֶׁהַ"לֵּב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה" וְכוּ'.

And how is the heart to be broken and humbled?

וְהַאֵיךְ נִשְׁבָּר הַלֵּב וְנִדְכֶּה?

Only a very minor part of this can be accomplished through mortification and fasts

הִנֵּה, מְעַט מִזְּעֵיר הוּא עַל־יְדֵי סִיגּוּפִים וְתַעֲנִיּוֹת,

in these generations of ours, when we have not the strength to fast as much as did King David;

בְּדוֹרוֹתֵינוּ אֵלֶּה שֶׁאֵין לָנוּ כֹּחַ לְהִתְעַנּוֹת הַרְבֵּה כְּדָוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ,

as our Sages comment16 on the verse uttered by him, “And my heart is slain within me”17—“for he had destroyed [his Evil Inclination] by fasting.”

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל פָּסוּק: "וְלִבִּי חָלַל בְּקִרְבִּי" – שֶׁ"הֲרָגוֹ בְּתַעֲנִית".

But the true humbling of the heart, so that it be broken and crushed,

אַךְ עִיקַּר הַכְנָעַת הַלֵּב, לִהְיוֹת נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה

and so that the spirit of impurity and sitra achara will be removed,

וְהַעֲבָרַת רוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

is achieved through being a “master of accounting” with all the profundity of one’s mind.

הוּא לִהְיוֹת מִ"מָּארֵי דְּחוּשְׁבָּנָא" בְּעוֹמֶק הַדַּעַת,

One’s personal stocktaking should be as scrupulous as the accounting made by the master or owner of a business, to whom every detail is critical.

One should concentrate his intellect and understanding deeply for a period18 every day, or at night before Tikkun Chatzot,

לְהַעֲמִיק דַּעְתּוֹ וּבִינָתוֹ שָׁעָה אַחַת בְּכָל יוֹם אוֹ לַיְלָה לִפְנֵי תִּיקּוּן־חֲצוֹת,

to contemplate how through his sins, he has brought about the exile of the Divine Presence, as noted above,

לְהִתְבּוֹנֵן בְּמַה שֶּׁפָּעַל וְעָשָׂה בַּחֲטָאָיו בְּחִינַת גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

and caused his spirit and Divine soul to be uprooted from the Divine Source of all Life,

וְגָרַם לַעֲקוֹר נִשְׁמָתוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית מֵחַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

and demeaned it to a place of defilement and death, namely, the chambers of the sitra achara,

וְהוֹרִידָהּ לִמְקוֹם הַטּוּמְאָה וְהַמָּוֶת, הֵן הֵיכְלוֹת הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

[his soul] becoming a vehicle for them,

וְנַעֲשֵׂית בִּבְחִינַת מֶרְכָּבָה אֲלֵיהֶם

Just as a vehicle has no will of its own and is completely subservient to the desires of its driver, so, too, is his soul subservient to the impure chambers of the sitra achara from whence it derives nurture.

receiving from them vitality to endow his body, as noted above—that the nurture and life-force of the sinner emanate from the kelipot and sitra achara.

לְקַבֵּל מֵהֶם שֶׁפַע וְחַיּוּת לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ לְגוּפוֹ, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

Meditation along these lines will bring a man to a state of contrition—itself a fit offering to the Divine Name Elokim.

Thus, our Sages declared that “the wicked while alive (lit., “in their life”) are called ‘dead.’”19

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "רְשָׁעִים בְּחַיֵּיהֶם קְרוּיִים מֵתִים",

This means to say that their life is derived from the site of death and impurity—from the chambers of the kelipot and sitra achara, as opposed to holiness, which is true life.

כְּלוֹמַר, שֶׁחַיֵּיהֶם נִמְשָׁכִים מִמְּקוֹם הַמָּוֶת וְהַטּוּמְאָה,

(20Accordingly, the verse that says that “the dead will not praise…”21 is no “mockery of the impoverished,” G‑d forbid,22 for it does not refer to those who are physically dead.

(וְכֵן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "לֹא הַמֵּתִים יְהַלְלוּ וְגוֹ'", אֵינוֹ כְּ"לוֹעֵג לָרָשׁ" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Rather, the reference is to the wicked who, while alive, are called dead, and being spiritually dead are unable to praise G‑d,

אֶלָּא הַכַּוָּונָה עַל הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁבְּחַיֵּיהֶם קְרוּיִים מֵתִים,

for they are confused with alien thoughts while yet in their wickedness and do not desire repentance, as is known.)

שֶׁמְּבַלְבְּלִים אוֹתָם בְּמַחֲשָׁבוֹת זָרוֹת בְּעוֹדָם בְּרִשְׁעָם וְאֵינָם חֲפֵיצִים בִּתְשׁוּבָה, כַּנּוֹדָע).

While in such a state, the evil person will find it well nigh impossible to praise G‑d fittingly because of the confusing, alien thoughts which are thrust upon him.

Thus, an individual will become contrite of heart when he contemplates how his soul has been uprooted from its Source because of a sin incurring excision or death by Divine agency.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that even sins which do not carry so harsh a penalty may still have the same effect.

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

וְאַף מִי שֶׁלֹּא עָבַר עַל עֲוֹן כָּרֵת, וְגַם לֹא עַל עֲוֹן מִיתָה בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם

such as vain emission and the like,

שֶׁהוּא הוֹצָאַת זֶרַע לְבַטָּלָה וּכְהַאי גַּוְנָא,

but other, less severe sins,

אֶלָּא שְׁאָר עֲבֵירוֹת קַלּוֹת,

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

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, מֵאַחַר שֶׁהֵן פּוֹגְמִים בַּנְּשָׁמָה וְנֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית,

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,

וְכִמְשַׁל פְּגִימַת וּפְסִיקַת חֲבָלִים דַּקִּים כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

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

הֲרֵי בְּרִיבּוּי הַחֲטָאִים יָכוֹל לִהְיוֹת פְּגַם כְּמוֹ בְּלָאו אֶחָד שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ כָּרֵת אוֹ מִיתָה,

This would be true even when a single sin is repeated numerous times.23

וַאֲפִילוּ בִּכְפִילַת חֵטְא אֶחָד פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת מְאֹד,

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

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

כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִמְשִׁיל הַנָּבִיא הַחֲטָאִים לְעָנָן הַמַּאֲפִיל אוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ,

As the verse states, “I have erased your transgressions like a thick cloud”24 (that can dissipate).

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "מָחִיתִי כָעָב פְּשָׁעֶיךָ" –

This refers to the grave sins (25that are barriers) between the internal aspect of the power flowing forth from the Tetragrammaton and the Divine soul.

הֵם עֲבֵירוֹת חֲמוּרוֹת, [הַמַּבְדִּילִים] בֵּין פְּנִימִית הַשְׁפָּעַת שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לַנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית,

This is like the separation of a thick, dark cloud that stands between the sun and the earth with its inhabitants.26

כְּהַבְדָּלַת עָנָן עָב וְחָשׁוּךְ, הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לָאָרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים עָלֶיהָ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל:

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

"וְכֶעָנָן חַטֹּאתֶיךָ" הֵן "עֲבֵירוֹת קַלּוֹת שֶׁאָדָם דָּשׁ בַּעֲקֵבָיו",

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

הַמַּבְדִּילִים כְּהַבְדָּלַת עָנָן קַל וְקָלוּשׁ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל.

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.

וְהִנֵּה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁבַּמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה, אִם מֵשִׂים אָדָם נֶגֶד אוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בַּחַלּוֹן מְחִיצוֹת קַלּוֹת וּקְלוּשׁוֹת לָרוֹב מְאֹד, הֵן מַאֲפִילוֹת כְּמוֹ מְחִיצָה אַחַת עָבָה וְיוֹתֵר –

This is exactly so in the analogue,

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ הוּא בַּנִּמְשָׁל

with all those cloudlike 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,”

בְּכָל עֲוֹנוֹת שֶׁאָדָם דָּשׁ בַּעֲקֵבָיו.

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

וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן הַמְפוּרְסָמוֹת מִדִּבְרֵי רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁהֵן מַמָּשׁ כַּעֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה וְגִילּוּי־עֲרָיוֹת וּשְׁפִיכוּת־דָּמִים,

For example:27 ignoring the needy,

כְּמוֹ הַעֲלָמַת עַיִן מִן הַצְּדָקָה,

concerning which Scripture writes, “Beware lest there be in your heart something unworthy….”28

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן יִהְיֶה דָבָר עִם לְבָבְךָ בְלִיַּעַל וְגוֹ'",

Beliyaal (here translated “unworthy”) is used in reference to idolatry29…, from which we learn that ignoring the needy is likened to idolatry.

וּ"בְלִיַּעַל", הִיא עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדַת אֱלִילִים וְכוּ',

Or talebearing, the evil tongue, that is equated to idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed.30

וְהַמְסַפֵּר בִּגְנוּת חֲבֵירוֹ, הִיא לָשׁוֹן הָרָע, הַשְּׁקוּלָה כַּעֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה וְגִילּוּי־עֲרָיוֹת וּשְׁפִיכוּת־דָּמִים,

Likewise, the vile-tempered is like the idolatrous,31

וְכָל הַכּוֹעֵס כְּאִלּוּ עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה,

and so is the arrogant.32

וְכֵן מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ גַּסּוּת הָרוּחַ,

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

וְכָהֵנָּה רַבּוֹת בַּגְּמָרָא.

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

וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן,

As our Sages assert, “G‑d has overlooked idolatry, [immorality, and bloodshed, but has not overlooked the sin of neglecting Torah study].”33

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "וִיתֵּר הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא עַל עֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה וְכוּ'".

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.

For this reason, it was ordained that in the course of Keriat Shema at the bedside,34 one should accept the four executions of the court, and so on.

וְלָכֵן סִידְּרוּ בִּקְרִיאַת־שְׁמַע שֶׁעַל־הַמִּטָּה, לְקַבֵּל עָלָיו ד' מִיתוֹת בֵּית־דִּין וְכוּ'.

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.

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

מִלְּבַד, שֶׁעַל פִּי הַסּוֹד, כָּל הַפּוֹגֵם בְּאוֹת יוּ"ד שֶׁל שֵׁם הַוָיָ' – כְּאִילּוּ נִתְחַיֵּיב סְקִילָה,

causing a defect in the hey is like incurring burning;

וְהַפּוֹגֵם בְּאוֹת הֵ"א – כְּאִילּוּ נִתְחַיֵּיב שְׂרֵיפָה,

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

וּבְאוֹת וָי"ו – כְּאִילּוּ נִתְחַיֵּיב הֶרֶג,

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

וּבְאוֹת הֵ"א אַחֲרוֹנָה – כְּאִילּוּ נִתְחַיֵּיב חֶנֶק:

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

וְהַמְבַטֵּל קְרִיאַת־שְׁמַע – פּוֹגֵם בְּאוֹת יוּ"ד, וּתְפִילִּין – בְּאוֹת הֵ"א,

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

וְצִיצִית – בְּאוֹת וָי"ו, וּתְפִלָּה – בְּאוֹת הֵ"א וְכוּ'.

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.

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”),

וּמִזֶּה יָכוֹל הַמַּשְׂכִּיל לִלְמוֹד לִשְׁאָר עֲוֹנוֹת וַחֲטָאִים,

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

וּבִיטּוּל תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן:

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 achara and enables a man to repent truthfully, earnestly regretting his past misdeeds and firmly resolving to better his future ways.