Chapter 11

פרק יא

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,

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

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

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

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

("כְּרוֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי"

or: “Cleanse me, purify me”6;

"כַּבְּסֵנִי טַהֲרֵנִי",

or: “Erase all my sins….”7)

וְכָל עֲווֹנוֹתַי מְחֵה" וְכוּ'),

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

בְּלִי שׁוּם סָפֵק וּסְפֵק סְפֵיקָא בָּעוֹלָם.

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.”

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

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

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

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,

אֶלָּא, אֵין כָּאן שׁוּם סָפֵק כְּלָל,

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

מֵאַחַר שֶׁבִּקַּשְׁנוּ "סְלַח לָנוּ" "מְחָל לָנוּ",

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

וְאִילּוּ לֹא הָיִינוּ חוֹזְרִים וְחוֹטְאִים – הָיִינוּ נִגְאָלִין מִיָּד,

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

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

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.

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

He must not cruelly withhold his forgiveness,

וְלֹא יְהֵא אַכְזָרִי מִלִּמְחוֹל,

even if one were to cut off his hand,

וַאֲפִילוּ בְּקוֹטֵעַ יַד חֲבֵירוֹ,

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

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא בְּסוֹף פֶּרֶק ח׳ דְּבָבָא קַמָּא:

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

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

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

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

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…,

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

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

כִּדְאִיתָא בְּפֶרֶק ח׳ דִּיבָמוֹת.

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

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

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.

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

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

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֶזְרָא "וְרַב לִסְלוֹחַ",

This means:


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

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

and then repeats the misdeed,

וְאַחַר כָּךְ חָזַר לְסוּרוֹ –

it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again,

קָשֶׁה מְאֹד שֶׁיִּמְחוֹל לוֹ שֵׁנִית,

and certainly a third and fourth time.

וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן בִּשְׁלִישִׁית וּרְבִיעִית.

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

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

for pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy,

כִּי הַמְּחִילָה הִיא מִמִּדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

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

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

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

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב "כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו",

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

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

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

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

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

וְלָכֵן "מַעֲבִיר אַשְׁמוֹתֵינוּ בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה",

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

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

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

חוֹזֵר וּמִתְוַדֶּה עֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים בְּשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה, וְכֵן לְעוֹלָם.

“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.”

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

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

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

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,

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

and so on, day by day, constantly.

וְכֵן מִדֵּי יוֹם בְּיוֹם לְעוֹלָם:

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.

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

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

וְכֵן הַתְּפִלָּה בִּזְמַן הַזֶּה עִם הַתְּשׁוּבָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

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

וְאֵין זֶה "אֶחֱטָא וְאָשׁוּב",

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].

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

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

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

and even then, he is not granted an opportunity.

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת "אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין" דַּיְיקָא,

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

אֲבָל אִם דָּחַק וְנִתְחַזֵּק וְנִתְגַּבֵּר עַל יִצְרוֹ וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה –

then his repentance is accepted.

מְקַבְּלִין תְּשׁוּבָתוֹ.

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

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

אֲבָל אָנוּ שֶׁמְּבַקְשִׁים בְּכָל יוֹם: "סְלַח לָנוּ" –

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

אָנוּ מַקְדִּימִין לְבַקֵּשׁ: "וְהַחֲזִירֵנוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה לְפָנֶיךָ",

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

דְּהַיְינוּ שֶׁלֹּא נָשׁוּב עוֹד לְכִסְלָה,

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

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

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

Opportunity is abundantly granted [for repentance].

מַסְפִּיקִין וּמַסְפִּיקִין,

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

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

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

"הַבָּא" דַיְיקָא, מִיָּד שֶׁבָּא.

and the pardon and forgiveness are thus also granted forthwith.

וְאֵי לָזֹאת, גַּם הַסְּלִיחָה וְהַמְּחִילָה הִיא מִיָּד.

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

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב "וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד" –

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

אֵין הַמְכֻוָּון לִהְיוֹת תָּמִיד עָצֵב נִבְזֶה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

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

דְּהָא כְּתִיב בַּתְרֵיהּ: "תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה וְגוֹ'

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

וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי וְגוֹ'",

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

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

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,

אֶלָּא "נֶגְדִּי" דַיְיקָא,

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

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

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

וּפֵירֵשׁ רַשִׁ"י "מֵרָחוֹק".

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

וְהַמְכֻוָּון, רַק לְבִלְתִּי רוּם לְבָבוֹ,

and that he be humble of spirit before all men

וְלִהְיוֹת שְׁפַל רוּחַ בִּפְנֵי כָל הָאָדָם,

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

כְּשֶׁיִּהְיֶה לְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינָיו שֶׁחָטָא נֶגֶד ה'.

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

וְאַדְּרַבָּה, לְעִנְיַן הַשִּׂמְחָה יוֹעִיל זִכְרוֹן הַחֵטְא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת,

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

בִּכְדֵי לְקַבֵּל בְּשִׂמְחָה כָּל הַמְּאוֹרָעוֹת הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת וּבָאוֹת,

whether from heaven or through the agency of man,

בֵּין מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם, בֵּין עַל־יְדֵי הַבְּרִיּוֹת,

whether in speech or in deed.

בְּדִיבּוּר אוֹ בְּמַעֲשֶׂה

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….)

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

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

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

who hear their insult and do not retort,

שׁוֹמְעִין חֶרְפָּתָם וְאֵין מְשִׁיבִין,

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

עוֹשִׂים מֵאַהֲבָה וּשְׂמֵחִים בְּיִסּוּרִים וְכוּ'",

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

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