On the surface, the question can be raised: In general, since the descent [and the journey of the soul through] “the desert of the nations”1 was designed initially by [G‑d,] the King, it is understood that it must be [characterized by] kindness and [lead to] an ascent.

Nevertheless, several of the stages of that journey involved the Jews angering [G‑d] by committing sins. Through their sins, they caused a greater descent2 than had been conceived in G‑d’s original design. Why is it necessary to say that this descent is also for the purpose of an ascent?

One could say that the correction and the elevation of this further descent are only possible through a higher and deeper power. Thus through the further descent [and the tapping of this deeper power], a greater ascent will be achieved. Nevertheless, seemingly, this only involves the future, i.e., what is achieved through the eventual correction and ascent. How is it possible to say that this further [stage in the] descent is itself, from an inner standpoint, in fact [part of] an ascent [from the outset]?

In truth, however,3 [an explanation can be given,] as the Mitteler Rebbe elaborates,4 {based on the inference the Midrash5 draws from the verse:6 “An awesome design toward humanity,” that Adam’s commission of the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge came as a result of “a plot against him.”} [The Mitteler Rebbe states] that the reason “that, at times, the evil inclination overpowers a person and causes him to sin” is that, “from Above, the evil inclination is unleashed toward him to bring him to this sin.”7

This is not a contradiction to the concept of free choice — and therefore to the principles of reward and punishment8 — because the “help from Above that arouses the evil to overcome the good”9 comes in a hidden manner that is not perceived by man. Therefore it does not influence the person’s choice10 (just as G‑d’s knowledge does not influence the person’s choice).11

{[Thus] even the descents which, on an apparent level, result from man’s choice are included in G‑d’s initial intent. In the instance of these descents, however, the way the King leads [a person] is in a hidden manner.}12

Thus one can conclude that even the descent [into sin] is motivated by a [Divine] intent: that through teshuvah for the sin there will be “an advantage of light from darkness”13 through transforming the sins into merits.14

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Mattos-Masei; 5 Menachem Av, 5725; the maamar entitled Basi LeGani, 5731)