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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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Tanya In Simple English – Chapter 2 – Iggeres Hateshuva

Now all of this is regards to the atonement and the forgiveness of the sin.

In other words, when a person does a Teshuva, then this sin is not mentioned to them on their judgment day and they will receive no punishment for it God-forbid in the world to come.

However in order that they should be friendly once again before God – they should be dear and precious to Him as they were prior to the sin, that God should take pleasure from their service to Him, this required in the days of the Beis Hamikdosh to bring a Karbon/sacrifice.

This is like an example of a person who angered a king and yet the king forgave him nevertheless in order to reestablish the bond to the levels that it was prior to the rip in the relationship, a present is given.

However now that we cannot offer a sacrifice, therefore the fast replaces the sacrifices as it states in the Gemarah “that the minimization of my own fat and blood through the fast, should be as if I gave you a sacrifice.”

Hence we find that many of the Taanayim and Amoraim (great Rabbis of the past) would fast even for a very small sin – for example Rabbi Eleazar Ben Azaryah used to permit that a cow would be allowed to go out with the rope between her horns on Shabbos and the Sages forbade it – one time the cow of his neighbor went out in this way, and he did not protest, and his teeth became black from the many fasts that he self-inflicted for not following the words of his fellow Sages.

Similarly we find with Rabbi Yehoishua that he once retorted, “I am embarrassed from your words, House of Shama” and his teeth became black from his many self-inflicted fasts.

And Rav Huna, once the strap of his Teffilin turned upside down and he fasted 40 fasts.

And there are many similar examples.

Based on this our sages have taught based on the Kabbalistic truths, the amount of fasts for various sins, even that are not sins Of Kares or Death From Heaven, for example for anger 151 fasts etc.

And even a transgression of the Rabbis, for example not drinking wine of a gentile, should be 73 fasts.

Similarly if one transgresses a positive Mitzvah of the Rabbis, such as prayer, he should fast, 61 fasts etc.

Generally speaking The secret of fast is a tremendous opportunity to draw down the love of God, just like a sacrifice, which it said “A pleasant pleasing aroma to God.”

As it states in Yeshayahu, “Do you call this a fast and a pleasing day to God?” which shows us, that a proper fast is a pleasing aroma to God.

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Tanya In Simple English – Iggeres Hateshuva Chapter 1

We have learned at the end of the Tractate Talmud Yuma – there are three types of  Atonement (Divine forgiveness over sins) but with each one must do to Teshuvah / Repentance.

If one transgress a Commandment then as soon as they repent God forgives them.

If one transgresses a Prohibition then Teshuva keeps it at bay, and on Yom Kippur the atonement comes.

(Now this does not mean that a commandment is less important than a Prohibition – in fact Commandments may override prohibitions – it is only that spiritually speaking, when one fulfills a commandment of God – one draws down a Divine Light – and if the prohibition was not done or / violated, thereby in any event this light is not present. However this causes a stain on the soul above which is why the necessity for Yom Kippur to remove the stain.

For this reason one should not assume in any way that a commandment is less important than a Prohibition.

In particular the Commandment of Torah study for our sages have told us that God was ready to forgive the three cardinal sins of adultery and idolatry etc. even though the punishment is the soul is cut off and death, but he was not willing to forgive the sin of neglecting Torah study.)

Getting back to the three types of atonement, if one transgresses sins with a punishment that “the soul is cut off” or death, then Teshuva and Yom Kippur suspend the judgment and it is only through punishment / suffering that the soul is cleansed.

Until here is the teaching of our sages about the three types of atonements.

Now the Commandment of the Torah regarding Teshuva is to merely abandon the bad behavior.

This means to make a firm commitment to never again foolishly transgressed the will of God / the Great mighty King.

Of course this applies both to prohibitions and Commandments.

This is the main explanation of the word Teshuva, which means Lashiv / to return to God with all one’s heart and with all and soul, to serve Him properly, and keep all of His Commandments as the verse says “The wicked should abandon their path and the sinful person his thoughts and return to God etc.”

And in Parshas Nitzavim it says “You will return to God your Lord and listen to His voice with all your heart.”

People mistakenly assume that Teshuvah means fasting.

And even one who transgressed prohibitions that the punishment is the soul is cut off, or death – and this is not that the person themselves should cause to themselves suffering – rather God

– in other words if their repentance has been accepted that they have repented with all their heart and soul then God will as a favor remove the stain on their soul through suffering in this world as it states “He who God loves He chastise.”

This is why the Rambam and the Sma”g (codifiers of Jewish law) did not mention fasting in regards to the law of repentance, even for sins involving “The soul cut off” and death.

Rather the commandment to repent includes, apart from remorse, confession of the sin and request of pardon – as it states in the Torah, and they will confess their sins.

Now this that it states in Yoel, “Return with all your heart through fasting and crying” this was only to eliminate the negative decree which had come from God… that he punishment to wipe away the sin was going to be a plague of locust.

This is actually the reason why the public fasts, unfortunately during harsh decrees – in other words, to wipe away the decree, as it says in Megilas Esther.

Now this that it states in the Mussar books primarily the book of Roikeach and the book of Chassidim to fast many fasts, and inflict oneself if one transgresses Kares and a death from Beth Din – one who wastes semen, who is liable for death from Heaven – as it states in the Torah regarding Er and Onan and his punishment is like one who transgresses – this is only to prevent the individual from the suffering caused from above, and also to speed up the conclusion of the atonement of the Soul, in addition perhaps the person needs an extra repentance, because he is not repenting out of love but fear… – (in other words, once again, the main Teshuva is not fasting, rather it is the remorse plus confession.)

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Tanya In Simple English – Chapter 12 -Shaar Hayichud Ve-haemuna

Now the Creations are subdivided into all their different beings and parts, merely based on the 22 letters.

Every letter manifests a specific energy from God.

Now when many letters form (like atoms into molecules) into a word, a being is formed – yet the first letter, becomes the dominant feature.

(Now the shape of every letter demonstrates the order / the shape, of its Divine flow.)

For example, the Hebrew words, “Let there be a sky” includes all the seven heavens… the many many beings and Creations as it speaks about the spiritual Beis Hamikdosh  and location where Manna comes to the Tzaddikim – the trillions and googilians of different beings and entities all came from the same word – let there be a sky… it’s only that this transposes through equivalencies in numerical values – into the individual things which are final words that come from the original.

Every combination of letters creates their own word and the first letter is the dominant entity of the word.

Similarly the same word can then transpose into another word and this would create a being of a lesser quality.

This is like the moonlight that comes to Earth which is really a reflection of the sunlight.

So the light on Earth is therefore the reflection of the reflection.

So the 10 sayings are the original light and then reflections upon reflections upon reflections, reflect.

So it goes all the way down until simple things like rocks and stones are created.

Their Hebrew names are the transpositions and substitutions of the original sayings as mentioned.