וְאָמְנָם, לִהְיוֹת בְּלִבּוֹ הַהַכְנָעָה, הִיא בְּחִינַת תְּשׁוּבָה תַּתָּאָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, וְגַם הַשִּׂמְחָה בַּה', שְׁתֵּיהֶן בְּיַחַד –

The Alter Rebbe stated in the previous chapter that since prayer is an expression of teshuvah ilaah, the higher level of return, it must be preceded by the humility and contrition of teshuvah tataah, the lower level of return. This is attained by spiritual stocktaking and by arousing Divine compassion upon one’s soul, in keeping with the Mishnaic dictum that “one should embark on worship only in an earnest frame of mind,” which is explained by Rashi to mean “humility.”

At the same time, the Alter Rebbe continued, we are also taught that “one should embark on worship only with joy.”

Since nowadays, most people are incapable of instantly turning their hearts from one extreme to the other, the Alter Rebbe advised that the time for the humbled heart of teshuvah tataah be advanced to the Tikkun Chatzot of the preceding midnight so that when the time for prayer arrives, the worshipper will be in a state of joy.

In the present chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that difficulties notwithstanding, it is possible for the heart to simultaneously harbor two opposite emotions—the anguished soul of teshuvah tataah and the joy that immediately precedes and accompanies prayer.

This subject, simultaneously harboring contrite humility in the heart—the state of teshuvah tataah, as explained—and the abovementioned [contrary emotion of] joy in G‑d that is also necessary for the service of prayer,

כְּבָר מִילְּתָא אֲמוּרָה בְּלִקּוּטֵי־אֲמָרִים סוֹף פֶּרֶק ל"ד,

has already been discussed in Likkutei Amarim, at the end of ch. 34.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ "חֶדְוָה תְּקִיעָא בְּלִבַּאי מִסִּטְרָא דָא וְכוּ'".

The Alter Rebbe explained there that these two emotions are not mutually exclusive since one’s contriteness is occasioned by his body and animal soul while his joy stems from his Divine soul and the G‑dly spark that it houses. Having two distinct causes, the two emotions can lodge together.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to quote the Zohar to this effect:

This is as stated in the Zohar 1: “[Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart, and] joy is lodged in the other side of my heart.”

וּבְצֵירוּף עוֹד הָאֱמוּנָה וְהַבִּטָּחוֹן, לִהְיוֹת נָכוֹן לִבּוֹ בָּטוּחַ בַּה', כִּי חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא,

This statement was made by R. Elazar ben R. Shimon. Hearing from his father Kabbalistic insights into the Destruction of the Holy Temple, he was at one and the same time heartbroken from his renewed recognition of the enormity of the Destruction—and joyful to be inducted into the mysteries of the Torah. We thus see from the Zohar that two opposite emotions can coexist when they result from two different causes.

Joined to this is faith and confidence, the heart being firm and certain in G‑d—that “He delights in kindness,”2

וְחַנּוּן וְרַחוּם וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ, תֵּיכֶף וּמִיָּד שֶׁמְּבַקֵּשׁ מְחִילָה וּסְלִיחָה מֵאִתּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

and is “gracious and merciful”3 and abundantly forgiving the instant one entreats Him for forgiveness and atonement.

("כְּרוֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי"

(4As it is written, “In accordance with Your abounding compassion, erase my transgressions”;5

"כַּבְּסֵנִי טַהֲרֵנִי",

or: “Cleanse me, purify me”6;

וְכָל עֲווֹנוֹתַי מְחֵה" וְכוּ'),

or: “Erase all my sins….”7)

בְּלִי שׁוּם סָפֵק וּסְפֵק סְפֵיקָא בָּעוֹלָם.

[The worshipper offers supplications such as the above] without the faintest vestige of doubt.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ מְבָרְכִין בְּכָל תְּפִלַּת י"ח תֵּיכֶף שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים "סְלַח לָנוּ כוּ'" – "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' חַנּוּן הַמַּרְבֶּה לִסְלוֹחַ",

For this reason, in every Shemoneh Esreh, the moment we plead, “Pardon us…,” [we conclude,] “Blessed are You, O G‑d, gracious One Who pardons abundantly.”

וַהֲרֵי "סְפֵק בְּרָכוֹת לְהָקֵל", מִשּׁוּם חֲשַׁשׁ בְּרָכָה לְבַטָּלָה?

Now we are forbidden to recite a blessing of doubtful obligation for fear that it be pronounced in vain.8

אֶלָּא, אֵין כָּאן שׁוּם סָפֵק כְּלָל,

Thus, were there even the slightest doubt as to whether G‑d forgives the sinner, we would never have been commanded to recite the above blessing.

However, there is no doubt here whatsoever,

מֵאַחַר שֶׁבִּקַּשְׁנוּ "סְלַח לָנוּ" "מְחָל לָנוּ",

for we have asked, “Pardon us, forgive us.”

וְאִילּוּ לֹא הָיִינוּ חוֹזְרִים וְחוֹטְאִים – הָיִינוּ נִגְאָלִין מִיָּד,

Furthermore, were we not to repeat our transgressions, we would be immediately redeemed,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ מְבָרְכִין: "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' גּוֹאֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל".

in accordance with the blessing we recite immediately afterward, “Blessed are You, O G‑d, Who redeems Israel.”

וַהֲרֵי אֲפִילוּ בְּמִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם כֵּן, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ הָאָדָם לִמְחוֹל תֵּיכֶף וּמִיָּד שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ מְחִילָה,

As the order of the blessings indicates, forgiveness leads to redemption—if not for our relapses.

Even by human standards [this certainty of pardon is legitimate, for] one must forgive as soon as he is asked for pardon.

וְלֹא יְהֵא אַכְזָרִי מִלִּמְחוֹל,

He must not cruelly withhold his forgiveness,

וַאֲפִילוּ בְּקוֹטֵעַ יַד חֲבֵירוֹ,

even if one were to cut off his hand,

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא בְּסוֹף פֶּרֶק ח׳ דְּבָבָא קַמָּא:

as we find in the Gemara, at the end of ch. 8 of Bava Kama.9

וְאִם בִּיקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ ג' פְּעָמִים וְלֹא מָחַל לוֹ – שׁוּב אֵין צָרִיךְ לְבַקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ,

So, too, if one has asked his fellow for forgiveness three times and has been rebuffed, he need not apologize further.

וְהַגִּבְעוֹנִים שֶׁבִּיקֵּשׁ דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם מֵהֶם מְחִילָה בְּעַד שָׁאוּל שֶׁהֵמִית אֶת הַגִּבְעוֹנִים, וְלֹא רָצוּ לִמְחוֹל –

When King David asked the Gibeonites10 to forgive King Saul, who had killed their people, and they refused to do so,

גָּזַר דָּוִד עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁלֹּא יָבֹאוּ בִּקְהַל ה', שֶׁהֵם רַחֲמָנִים וְכוּ',

David decreed that they should not enter the congregation of G‑d, i.e., they would never be allowed to convert and thereby join the Jewish people, who are merciful…,

כִּדְאִיתָא בְּפֶרֶק ח׳ דִּיבָמוֹת.

as we have learned in Yevamot, end of ch. 8.11

וּבְמִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה לְאֵין קֵץ.

As a Divine trait, how much more certain is it—nay, infinitely more certain—[that forgiveness is swift].

וּמַה שֶּׁמְּשַׁבְּחִים וּמְבָרְכִים אֶת ה' "חַנּוּן הַמַּרְבֶּה לִסְלוֹחַ" – "הַמַּרְבֶּה" דַּיְיקָא,

Now, if mere mortals are also expected to forgive instantly, what kind of praise is it that we offer the Infinite One in Shemoneh Esreh by ascribing a like attribute to Him? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now anticipates:

As to the fact that we praise and bless G‑d as being “the gracious One Who abounds in forgiveness”—the verb chosen is marbeh (“abounds”), implying a quality unique to G‑d.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֶזְרָא "וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ",

In Ezra,12 [too,] we find that G‑d “pardons abundantly.”

דְהַיְינוּ,

This means:

שֶׁבְּמִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם, אִם יֶחֱטָא אִישׁ לְאִישׁ וּבִיקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ מְחִילָה וּמָחַל לוֹ

In the mortal world, if one person harms another and asks his pardon, which is granted,

וְאַחַר כָּךְ חָזַר לְסוּרוֹ –

and then repeats the misdeed,

קָשֶׁה מְאֹד שֶׁיִּמְחוֹל לוֹ שֵׁנִית,

it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again,

וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן בִּשְׁלִישִׁית וּרְבִיעִית.

and certainly a third and fourth time.

אֲבָל בְּמִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֵין הֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין פַּעַם אַחַת לְאֶלֶף פְּעָמִים,

By the standard of G‑d, however, there is no difference between once and a thousand times,

כִּי הַמְּחִילָה הִיא מִמִּדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

for pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy,

וּמִדּוֹתָיו הַקְּדוֹשׁוֹת אֵינָן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית, אֶלָּא בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף,

and Divine attributes are not bounded and finite; they are infinite,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב "כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו",

as in the verse, “For His mercies have not ended.”13

וּלְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף אֵין הֶפְרֵשׁ כְּלָל בֵּין מִסְפָּר קָטָן לְגָדוֹל,

Relative to infinity, there is no difference whatsoever between a small number and a large one,

דְּ"כוּלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא – מַמָּשׁ – חֲשִׁיב", וּ"מַשְׁוֶה קָטָן וְגָדוֹל וְכוּ'".

for “before Him, all are considered as naught,”14 and “He makes equal the small and the great….”15

וְלָכֵן "מַעֲבִיר אַשְׁמוֹתֵינוּ בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה",

Therefore, “He removes our sins every year.”16

וְכָל הַחֲטָאִים שֶׁמִּתְוַודִּים בְּ"עַל חֵטְא" מִדֵּי שָׁנָה, אַף שֶׁחָזַר וְעָבַר עֲלֵיהֶם –

As to all the sins for which we confess in the Al Chet annually, though repeatedly violated,

חוֹזֵר וּמִתְוַדֶּה עֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים בְּשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה, וְכֵן לְעוֹלָם.

we again confess for them on Yom Kippur in the coming year, and so on always.

וּ"בְכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה" לָאו דַּוְקָא, אֶלָּא כְּמוֹ כֵן בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם ג' פְּעָמִים מְבָרְכִים: "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' חַנּוּן הַמַּרְבֶּה לִסְלוֹחַ",

“Every year” does not necessarily imply a yearly pardon, for three times every day, we pronounce, “Blessed are You, O G‑d, Who is gracious and abounds in forgiveness.”

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "תְּפִלָּה כְּנֶגֶד תְּמִידִין תִּקְּנוּהָ",

As our Sages teach,17 the prayers were instituted in place of the daily sacrificial offerings.

וְתָמִיד שֶׁל שַׁחַר הָיָה מְכַפֵּר עַל עֲבֵירוֹת הַלַּיְלָה, וְתָמִיד שֶׁל בֵּין הָעַרְבַּייִם עַל שֶׁל יוֹם,

The daily morning sacrifice would atone for the sins of the previous night, and the daily evening sacrifice atoned for the sins of the past day,

וְכֵן מִדֵּי יוֹם בְּיוֹם לְעוֹלָם:

and so on, day by day, constantly.

אֶלָּא שֶׁיּוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים מְכַפֵּר עַל עֲבֵירוֹת חֲמוּרוֹת, וְהַתָּמִיד, שֶׁהוּא קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה, מְכַפֵּר עַל מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה בִּלְבַד,

Just as in former times, atonement was secured by the regular altar offerings, nowadays, too, our prayers and repentance bring about forgiveness.

What, however, is the difference between the forgiveness granted on Yom Kippur and that granted daily?

[“Every year” means only that] Yom Kippur atones for the grave sins while the regular offering of the olah sacrifice atoned only for the violation of positive commands.

וְכֵן הַתְּפִלָּה בִּזְמַן הַזֶּה עִם הַתְּשׁוּבָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

In our time, worship with repentance [substitutes for offerings], atoning only for violations of positive commands, as noted above.

וְאֵין זֶה "אֶחֱטָא וְאָשׁוּב",

However, this thrice-daily recitation of G‑d’s assurance of forgiveness is not [the attitude of one who says,] “I will sin and [later] repent,” concerning whom our Sages say, “He is not granted an opportunity to repent.”18

כִּי הַיְינוּ דַוְקָא שֶׁבִּשְׁעַת הַחֵטְא הָיָה יָכוֹל לִכְבּוֹשׁ יִצְרוֹ, אֶלָּא שֶׁסּוֹמֵךְ בְּלִבּוֹ עַל הַתְּשׁוּבָה,

For that is relevant only if while committing the sin, he could have overcome his evil impulse but depended in his heart on repenting [later].

וְלָכֵן, הוֹאִיל וְהַתְּשׁוּבָה גּוֹרֶמֶת לוֹ לַחֲטוֹא – "אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין וְכוּ'".

Since it was [the opportunity for] repentance that caused him to sin, “He is not granted an opportunity [to repent],”

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת "אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין" דַּיְיקָא,

and even then, he is not granted an opportunity.

אֲבָל אִם דָּחַק וְנִתְחַזֵּק וְנִתְגַּבֵּר עַל יִצְרוֹ וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה –

However, if he pressed forcefully and overpowered his evil impulse and did repent,

מְקַבְּלִין תְּשׁוּבָתוֹ.

then his repentance is accepted.

אֲבָל אָנוּ שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים בְּכָל יוֹם: "סְלַח לָנוּ" –

This all applies to a situation where a person indeed says, “I shall sin and [later] repent.”

However, we, who plead daily, “Forgive us,”

אָנוּ מַקְדִּימִין לְבַקֵּשׁ: "וְהַחֲזִירֵנוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה לְפָנֶיךָ",

preface that prayer by saying, “Bring us back with a perfect repentance before you,”

דְּהַיְינוּ שֶׁלֹּא נָשׁוּב עוֹד לְכִסְלָה,

so that we revert no more to folly and sin no more.

וְכֵן בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים מְבַקְשִׁים: "יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁלֹּא אֶחֱטָא עוֹד" –

On Yom Kippur, too, we ask, “May it be Your will that I sin no more.”

מַסְפִּיקִין וּמַסְפִּיקִין,

Hence, since one does not rely on one’s ability to repent later:

Opportunity is abundantly granted [for repentance].

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "הַבָּא לִטַּהֵר מְסַיְּיעִין אוֹתוֹ" –

As our Sages teach: “Whoever comes to purify himself [of his sin] is given assistance.”19

"הַבָּא" דַיְיקָא, מִיָּד שֶׁבָּא.

The expression “whoever comes” [indicates that he is granted assistance] as soon as he comes,

וְאֵי לָזֹאת, גַּם הַסְּלִיחָה וְהַמְּחִילָה הִיא מִיָּד.

and the pardon and forgiveness are thus also granted forthwith.

As to the verse that says, “My sin is always before me,”20

אֵין הַמְכֻוָּון לִהְיוֹת תָּמִיד עָצֵב נִבְזֶה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

this does not imply that one ought to be constantly melancholy and humiliated, G‑d forbid,

דְּהָא כְּתִיב בַּתְרֵיהּ: "תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה וְגוֹ'

for later verses declare, “Let me hear gladness and joy…,”21

וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי וְגוֹ'",

and “uphold me with a spirit of magnanimity…”22;

וּמִשּׁוּם שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת כָּל יָמָיו בִּתְשׁוּבָה עִילָּאָה, שֶׁהִיא בְּשִׂמְחָה רַבָּה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

moreover, “Throughout one’s days, one should experience teshuvah [ilaah],”23 [a manner of repentance] that is marked by great joy, as noted above.

אֶלָּא "נֶגְדִּי" דַיְיקָא,

How, then, are we to understand that “my sin is always before me”?

Rather, [the term used for “before me” is] specifically negdi, which implies being opposite but at a certain distance,

כְּמוֹ: "וְאַתָּה תִּתְיַצֵּב מִנֶּגֶד", "מִנֶּגֶד סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד יַחֲנוּ",

as in the verse that says, “You shall stand at a distance (mineged)24; or: “at a distance (mineged) around the Tent of Assembly shall they camp.”25

וּפֵירֵשׁ רַשִׁ"י "מֵרָחוֹק".

Rashi defines the above term (lit., “opposite”) as “at a distance.”

וְהַמְכֻוָּון, רַק לְבִלְתִּי רוּם לְבָבוֹ,

Thus, one should always retain an awareness of his having sinned—but “at a distance,” i.e., at the back of his mind.

Hence, the intention [of our verse] is merely that one’s heart should not grow haughty

וְלִהְיוֹת שְׁפַל רוּחַ בִּפְנֵי כָל הָאָדָם,

and that he be humble of spirit before all men

כְּשֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינָיו שֶׁחָטָא נֶגֶד ה'.

because there will be a remembrance between his eyes that he has sinned before G‑d.

וְאַדְּרַבָּה, לְעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה יוֹעִיל זִכְרוֹן הַחֵטְא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת,

Memories of past sin are thus not intended to engender despondency, G‑d forbid.

In fact, as far as joy is concerned, the remembrance of one’s past sins will be especially effective

בִּכְדֵי לְקַבֵּל בְּשִׂמְחָה כָּל הַמְּאוֹרָעוֹת הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת וּבָאוֹת,

in encouraging happiness in the face of whatever misfortunes threaten to overtake him,

בֵּין מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם, בֵּין עַל־יְדֵי הַבְּרִיּוֹת,

whether from heaven or through the agency of man,

בְּדִיבּוּר אוֹ בְּמַעֲשֶׂה

whether in speech or in deed.

(וְזוֹ עֵצָה טוֹבָה לְהִנָּצֵל מִכַּעַס וְכָל מִינֵי קְפֵידָא וְכוּ').

Any such physical or verbal offense will be accepted with equanimity when one recalls that he has sinned in the past and that his present afflictions in fact assist in his atonement.

(26This [humility on account of one’s imperfect record] is good counsel that enables a man to be immune to becoming angry or taking offense in any way….)

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "הַנֶּעֱלָבִין וְאֵינָן עוֹלְבִין,

As our Sages declare, “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn,

שׁוֹמְעִין חֶרְפָּתָם וְאֵין מְשִׁיבִין,

who hear their insult and do not retort,

עוֹשִׂים מֵאַהֲבָה וּשְׂמֵחִים בְּיִסּוּרִים וְכוּ'",

who perform out of love and are happy in affliction—concerning them does Scripture say,27 ‘Those who love Him [shall be] like the sun rising in all its might.’”28

וְ"כָל הַמַּעֲבִיר עַל מִדּוֹתָיו – מַעֲבִירִים לוֹ עַל כָּל פְּשָׁעָיו":

Three distinct categories are mentioned here, in ascending order: “Those who are humiliated yet do not humiliate in turn” do respond to the insults of others but do not retaliate in kind. Those of the second category “hear their insult and do not retort” at all. Those of the third category actually “are happy in affliction”—because they remember their past sins and are glad to accept their present suffering as a means of penance.

Moreover, “whoever passes over his feelings, all his sins are passed over.”29