Chapter 2

פרק ב

Repentance, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the opening chapter, is in no way synonymous with fasting for a sin that one has committed; repentance merely entails abandoning the sin for all time. This is so even with regard to transgressions—those punishable by excision or by execution—whose atonement becomes complete through suffering. Even in these instances, the suffering is not intended to be self-inflicted through fasting but is brought on from Above.

However, all this refers to atonement and forgiveness of the sin—[the offender] is pardoned completely for having violated the command of the King once he has repented fully.

אַךְ כָּל זֶה לְעִנְיַן כַּפָּרָה וּמְחִילַת הֶעָוֹן, שֶׁנִּמְחָל לוֹ לְגַמְרֵי מַה שֶּׁעָבַר עַל מִצְוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ כְּשֶׁעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה,

Atonement and forgiveness thus do not require fasting. If the individual repents fully:

No charge nor semblance of an accusation is mentioned against him on the day of judgment so that he should be punished for his sin, G‑d forbid, in the World to Come; in his trial there, he is completely exonerated.

וְאֵין מַזְכִּירִין לוֹ דָּבָר וַחֲצִי דָּבָר בְּיוֹם הַדִּין לְעָנְשׁוֹ עַל זֶה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם־הַבָּא, וְנִפְטָר לְגַמְרֵי מִן הַדִּין בָּעוֹלָם־הַבָּא.

Nonetheless, in order that he should be acceptable before G‑d, as beloved of Him as before the sin so that his Creator might derive delight from his service—

אָמְנָם, שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְרָצוֹן לִפְנֵי ה' וּמְרוּצֶּה וְחָבִיב לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ כְּקוֹדֶם הַחֵטְא, לִהְיוֹת נַחַת רוּחַ לְקוֹנוֹ מֵעֲבוֹדָתוֹ –

[in past times,] he would bring an olah offering,1 in addition to his repentance,

הָיָה צָרִיךְ לְהָבִיא קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה

even for [transgressing] an ordinary positive commandment that involves no excision or execution.

אֲפִילוּ עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה קַלָּה שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ כָּרֵת וּמִיתַת בֵּית־דִּין,

In this spirit, our Sages in Torat Kohanim interpret the verse,2 “It shall be acceptable for him,”—that the olah offering causes a person who violated a positive command to become acceptable to G-d.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁדָּרְשׁוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה בְּתוֹרַת כֹּהֲנִים עַל פָּסוּק "וְנִרְצָה לוֹ";

and thus we find in the Talmud, in the first chapter of Zevachim,3 that the olah offering atones for [the violation of] positive commandments; it is a “gift” [that is offered] after one has repented and been pardoned his punishment.

וְכִדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דִזְבָחִים, דְּעוֹלָה מְכַפֶּרֶת עַל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה, וְהִיא דוֹרוֹן לְאַחַר שֶׁעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה וְנִמְחַל לוֹ הָעוֹנֶשׁ.

This is like the case of a man who displeased his king, appeased him through intercessors, and was forgiven by him;

וּכְאָדָם שֶׁסָּרַח בַּמֶּלֶךְ וּפִיְּיסוֹ עַל־יְדֵי פְּרַקְלִיטִין וּמָחַל לוֹ,

still, he will send a gift so that the king might consent that he appear again before his sovereign.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, שׁוֹלֵחַ דּוֹרוֹן וּמִנְחָה לְפָנָיו שֶׁיִּתְרַצֶּה לוֹ לִרְאוֹת פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ

The olah offering was similarly brought as a gift to G‑d after the offender had repented and had been granted a pardon in order that he once again find favor in His eyes and be beloved by Him as before the sin.

(4The expression “atones,” quoted from the Talmud and in the verse,5 “It shall be acceptable for him to atone for him,”

(וּלְשׁוֹן "מְכַפֶּרֶת", וְכֵן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה "וְנִרְצָה לוֹ לְכַפֵּר עָלָיו" –

does not refer to the soul’s atonement for the sin, for this is accomplished through repentance,

אֵין זוֹ כַּפָּרַת נַפְשׁוֹ,

but rather (so to speak) his restoration before G‑d so that he will bring his Creator gratification; no vestige of the sin will remain, and the former offender will be beloved of G‑d as before,

אֶלָּא לְכַפֵּר לִפְנֵי ה' לִהְיוֹת נַחַת רוּחַ לְקוֹנוֹ,

as the Talmud teaches there—that once the person has been pardoned, then comes the gift of the olah offering,

כִּדְאִיתָא שָׁם בַּגְּמָרָא,

and as the verse states: “It shall be perfect so that it be acceptable.”6)

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "תָּמִים יִהְיֶה לְרָצוֹן").

Today, when we have no offerings to call forth G‑d’s pleasure, fasting replaces the offering. As the Talmud says, the prayer of one who is fasting is: “May my loss of fat and blood brought about through fasting be regarded as though I had offered it to You [as a sacrifice on the altar].”7

וְעַכְשָׁיו, שֶׁאֵין לָנוּ קָרְבָּן לְהָפִיק רָצוֹן מֵה' – הַתַּעֲנִית הוּא בִּמְקוֹם קָרְבָּן, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּגְּמָרָא "שֶׁיְּהֵא מִיעוּט חֶלְבִּי וְדָמִי שֶׁנִּתְמַעֵט – כְּאִלּוּ הִקְרַבְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וְכוּ'".

The purpose of fasting, then, is that one become acceptable to G‑d just as before the sin.

This is why there are many cases of Talmudic Sages who for some trivial fault underwent a great many fasts.

וְלָכֵן מָצִינוּ בְּכַמָּה תַּנָּאִים וְאַמוֹרָאִים, שֶׁעַל דָּבָר קַל הָיוּ מִתְעַנִּים תַּעֲנִיּוֹת הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד,

R. Elazar ben Azariah, for example, contended that a cow may go out wearing its strap between its horns on Shabbat while his colleagues prohibited it. Once, a neighbor’s cow went out with its strap, and R. Elazar did not protest. Because he did not support his colleagues’ view, he fasted so long that his teeth were blackened.8

כְּמוֹ רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה, שֶׁהָיָה מַתִּיר שֶׁתְּהֵא פָּרָה יוֹצְאָה בִּרְצוּעָה שֶׁבֵּין קַרְנֶיהָ בְּשַׁבָּת, וַחֲכָמִים אוֹסְרִים, וּפַעַם אַחַת יָצְאָה כֵּן פָּרָתוֹ שֶׁל שְׁכֶנְתּוֹ וְלֹא מִיחָה בָּהּ, וְהוּשְׁחֲרוּ שִׁינָּיו מִפְּנֵי הַצּוֹמוֹת עַל שֶׁלֹּא קִיֵּים דִּבְרֵי חֲבֵירָיו;

So, too, R. Joshua once remarked: “I am ashamed of your words, Beit Shammai.”9 His teeth, too, turned black through fasting.

וְכֵן רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, שֶׁאָמַר: "בּוֹשְׁנִי מִדִּבְרֵיכֶם בֵּית שַׁמַּאי", וְהוּשְׁחֲרוּ שִׁינָּיו מִפְּנֵי הַצּוֹמוֹת;

Likewise, Rav Huna, because his tefillin strap once turned over, endured forty fasts.10

וְרַב הוּנָא, פַּעַם אַחַת נִתְהַפְּכָה לוֹ רְצוּעָה שֶׁל תְּפִילִּין, וְהִתְעַנָּה מ' צוֹמוֹת;

Indeed, there are many such instances recorded about our Sages.

וְכָהֵנָּה רַבּוֹת.

These fasts were not endured for the sake of repentance nor as self-inflicted suffering in order to complete a process of atonement; these were not sins of the kind that required this. The sole purpose of these fasts was to restore the bonds of love between the former sinner and his Maker.

On this basis, that fasting substitutes for an offering and as such has a place even when an individual does not need to undergo suffering in order to attain complete atonement,

וְעַל יְסוֹד זֶה,

the Arizal taught his disciples, according to the principles of the Kabbalah, the number of fasts for many transgressions,

לִימֵּד הָאֲרִיזַ"ל לְתַלְמִידָיו עַל פִּי חָכְמַת הָאֱמֶת, מִסְפַּר הַצּוֹמוֹת לְכַמָּה עֲוֹנוֹת וַחֲטָאִים,

even though they entail neither excision nor death by Divine agency—in which case suffering would be necessary.

אַף שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶן כָּרֵת וְלֹא מִיתָה בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם,

Examples: for anger—151 fasts;

כְּמוֹ, עַל הַכַּעַס – קנ"א תַּעֲנִיּוֹת וְכוּ';

even for transgressing a Rabbinic prohibition, such as drinking the wine of non-Jews—seventy-three fasts;

וַאֲפִילוּ עַל אִיסּוּר דְּרַבָּנָן, כְּמוֹ סְתָם יֵינָם – יִתְעַנֶּה ע"ג תַּעֲנִיּוֹת וְכוּ';

likewise for neglecting a positive Rabbinic enactment, such as prayer11—sixty-one fasts.

וְכֵן עַל בִּיטּוּל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה דְּרַבָּנָן, כְּמוֹ תְּפִלָּה – יִתְעַנֶּה ס"א תַּעֲנִיּוֹת וְכוּ'.

As a general rule, the mystery of fasting is wondrously effective for the revelation of the supreme will,

וְדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל, סוֹד הַתַּעֲנִית הִיא סְגוּלָּה נִפְלָאָה לְהִתְגַּלּוּת רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

similar to an offering, of which it is said, “An aroma pleasing to G‑d.”12

כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בּוֹ: "רֵיחַ נִיחוֹחַ לַה'",

Thus, in Isaiah we find, “Do you call this a fast and a day desirable to G‑d?!”13

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בִּישַׁעְיָה: "הֲלָזֶה תִּקְרָא צוֹם וְיוֹם רָצוֹן לַה'",

Obviously, an acceptable fast is a “desirable day.”

מִכְּלָל, שֶׁהַצּוֹם הַנִּרְצֶה הוּא יוֹם רָצוֹן: