Tanya in simple English – Iggeres Hateshuva – Chapter 3

Now the sages of the later Mussar, were divided regarding what a person should do if he sinned, the same sin many times.

Some of them said that he should fast the same amount of fasts for that sin many times.

For example, one who wastes semen where the amount of fasts as explained in “The path of Teshuvah” from the Ari Za”l which is 84 fasts… so if he did this 10 or 20 times for example, he should fast 10 or 20 X 84, and similarly with all other fasts.

This is similar to the Korbon Chatas – Chatas sacrifice, which one had to bring for each time one sinned.

Now some people compare this to a Korban Oilah – Oilah Sacrifice which was brought for not doing a commandment – even if one did not do many Commandments, a single Oilah would suffice.

And the accepted compromise is to fast three times the amount of fasts of this sin.

The reason for this is based on what it says in the Holy Zohar at the end of Parshas Noach, that if a person makes a sin before God, the first time he creates a stain – the third time, that stains spreads from one end to the other end (of the universe.)

However this is all referring to somebody who the many fasts would not affect them in any way – but somebody who through fasting may become ill or weak as in our generations – they are forbidden to increase the fasts, even for sins as severe as Kares and death, and certainly sins such as neglecting a commandment or transgressing a prohibition that have no Kares.

They may only do as many fast as they estimate will not hurt them at all.

For even in the earlier generations and the time of the Taanayim and Amoraim they would not fast as much, unless they were strong and healthy – and it just simply was a little pain – but those who cannot endure this and a fast anyway, this is considered a sinner, as it says in the Talmud, the first chapter of Taanis.

Even one who fasts on clear sins as Rashi says there, this is unacceptable if they cannot easily endure it.

And as it says in the first Chapter of Zevachim, that there is no Jew who does not have the responsibility to at least offer a sacrifice for lack of fulfilling a commandant.

How much more so does this apply to a Torah scholar, for it is a great sin if they fast, as due to the weakness that the fast produces, they cannot study Torah properly.

The solution to this is as it says “you can redeem your sin in charity.”

As our sages have said, to give for each fast approximately the amount of a meal and a wealthy person should add according to his meal as it speaks about this in the laws of fasting.

Nonetheless whoever would like to feel the closeness of God and completely rectify their soul and bring it close to God in complete Teshuva, he should be extra careful to try to, at least once in his lifetime complete the amount of fasts for each sin, from the very serious sins that one would be liable to death even from the hands of Heaven alone – for example wasting semen, to do at least 84 fasts once in his lifetime.

One can furthermore do these fast in the winter days which are shorter and for example just do 10 in one winter or less… and then completed 84 fast in 9 years or more, according to their strength.

(Also a person could eat a little bit, 3 hours before sunrise, and this is also considered a fast, if he fast afterwards.)

Now to complete the 254 fasts mentioned – (in other words three times 84) a person should fast another four times 84 – but only till midday, which according to the Talmud Yerushalmy this also is considered a fast, and the two half days are considered like one day for this.

Of-course this applies to other sins in a similar vein – and each Soul knows it’s inner pain and wishes for her righteousness.

However the amount of fasts that are over 252 etc. that a person should according to one opinion should fast – a person should redeem them all in charity, approximately the amount of three meals a day, $9.

Similarly for other fasts that one should fast over sins which do not involve punishment of death, even a sin for transgressing the not fulfilling the Mitzvah of the Torah or the Rabbis or not studying Torah all the time etc. so one should simply give the amount to charity, if one is not able to endure fasting.

And even though it may be a lot of money, do not worry about the prohibition to not spend more than a 20th of your income on charity.

For the prohibition is not to waste money, but if one is doing this for the sake of redeeming their soul from fasts and self-infliction this is not considered wasting.

This is no worse than the healing of the body that one would spend all their money for… or other needs.

And based on the amount of fasts that are mentioned into Tikkuinei Teshuva, which are very many, therefore all the people today who are trying to be careful to do the will of God, try to give as much charity as possible – this is because in our generation we are very weak, and we can’t inflict
pain (as they could do in those days.)

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