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.

אך כל זה לענין כפרה ומחילת העון, שנמחל לו לגמרי מה שעבר על מצות המלך כשעשה תשובה שלמה

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.

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

ואין מזכירין לו דבר וחצי דבר ביום הדין, לענשו על זה חס ושלום בעולם הבא, ונפטר לגמרי מן הדין בעולם הבא

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.

אמנם שיהיה לרצון לפני ה׳, ומרוצה וחביב לפניו יתברך כקודם החטא, להיות נחת רוח לקונו מעבודתו, היה צריך להביא קרבן עולה

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

אפילו על מצות עשה קלה שאין בה כרת ומיתת בית דין

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

כמו שדרשו רז״ל בתורת כהנים על פסוק: ונרצה לו

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.

וכדאיתא בגמרא פרק קמא דזבחים, דעולה מכפרת על מצות עשה, והיא דורון לאחר שעשה תשובה ונמחל לו העונש

Thus too 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.

וכאדם שסרח במלך ופייסו על ידי פרקליטין, ומחל לו

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

אף על פי כן שולח דורון ומנחה לפניו, שיתרצה לו לראות פני המלך

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

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.

ולשון מכפרת, וכן מה שכתוב בתורה: ונרצה לו לכפר עליו

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

אין זו כפרת נפשו

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

אלא לכפר לפני ה׳, להיות נחת רוח לקונו

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,

כדאיתא שם בגמרא

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

וכמו שכתוב: תמים יהיה לרצון

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

ועכשיו שאין לנו קרבן להפיק רצון מה׳, התענית הוא במקום קרבן, כמו שכתוב בגמרא: שיהא מיעוט חלבי ודמי שנתמעט כאלו הקרבתי לפניך כו׳

Today, when we have no offerings to call forth G‑d’s pleasure, fasting replaces the offering. As the Talmud says, that the prayer of one who is fasting is:7 “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].”

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

ולכן מצינו בכמה תנאים ואמוראים, שעל דבר קל היו מתענים תעניות הרבה מאד

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

כמו רבי אלעזר בן עזריה, שהיה מתיר שתהא פרה יוצאה ברצועה שבין קרניה בשבת, וחכמים אוסרים, ופעם אחת יצאה כן פרתו של שכנתו, ולא מיחה בה, והושחרו שיניו מפני הצומות על שלא קיים דברי חביריו,

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

וכן רבי יהושע, שאמר: בושני מדבריכם בית שמאי, והושחרו שיניו מפני הצומות

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

ורב הונא, פעם אחת נתהפכה לו רצועה של תפילין, והתענה מ׳ צומות

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

וכהנה רבות

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

These fasts were not undertaken 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.

ועל יסוד זה

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,

לימד האריז״ל לתלמידיו על פי חכמת האמת מספר הצומות לכמה עונות וחטאים

the AriZal taught his disciples, according to the principles of the Kabbalah, the number of fasts to be undertaken for many transgressions,

אף שאין בהן כרת, ולא מיתה בידי שמים

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

כמו על הכעס, קנ״א תעניות וכו׳

Examples: for anger — 151 fasts;

ואפילו על איסור דרבנן, כמו סתם יינם, יתענה ע״ג תעניות וכו׳

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

וכן על ביטול מצות עשה דרבנן, כמו תפלה, יתענה ס״א תעניות וכו׳

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

ודרך כלל, סוד התענית היא סגולה נפלאה להתגלות רצון העליון ברוך הוא

As a general rule, the mystery of fasting is wondrously effective for the revelation of the Supreme Will,

כמו הקרבן, שנאמר בו: ריח ניחוח לה׳

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

וכמו שכתוב בישעיהו: הלזה תקרא צום ויום רצון לה׳

Thus in Isaiah13 we find, “Do you call this a fast and a day desirable to G‑d?!”

מכלל שהצום הנרצה הוא יום רצון

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