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A Higher Awareness

Prepared by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Altein

In the first perek of Igeres Hateshuvah the Alter Rebbe explains that in order to fulfill the mitzvah of teshuvah, all one needs to do is to renounce the sin and sincerely resolve to fulfill Hashem’s Will from now on. In the next two perakim he continues that in order to return to the state of divine affection he had enjoyed before the sin, he must bring a korban (in the times of the Beis Hamikdash), fast (after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed), or give tzedakah (now that we can’t fast as often).

In Perek Daled the Alter Rebbe continues that these ideas are only necessary to complete the kaparah; teshuvah itself, however, is comprised solely of a sincere return to Hashem, as explained in Perek Alef. However, he is not satisfied with what he had explained earlier. The Alter Rebbe enters a lengthy discussion of what teshuvah is about, based on the Zohar’s interpretation that teshuvah means tashuv hei, the return of the letter hei. A sin causes the final hei of Hashem’s name to descend into golus, and through doing teshuvah one brings back the hei to its previous state. This is something one must be aware of as soon as he begins doing even the most basic level of teshuvah.

“Basic” Knowledge

This begs for an explanation. Seemingly, this explanation only tells us what teshuvah accomplishes, but it doesn’t give any insight to what a person must know to actually do teshuvah. Why must a person know about this concept as soon as he begins doing teshuvah?

What’s more, the Alter Rebbe continues that he must also be aware of the concept of teshuvah ila’ah, the return of the first hei of Hashem’s name!

What is teshuvah ila’ah? In Perek Ches the Alter Rebbe explains that teshuvah ila’ah refers to the return of the neshamah to its state of existence before descending to this world, and furthermore, to its state before it was “blown” by Hashem to exist as a separate entity (just as a person’s breath is one with his heart before being blown).

This seems counterintuitive. The descent of the neshamah to become a separate entity is something entirely independent of a person’s avodah; Hashem is the one who “blew” and created the neshamah. Yet, the idea of returning the neshamah to such a sublime state is a concept one must be aware of right away, while perfecting his image so he should be as beloved as before the sin—something in which he is at fault—is of only secondary importance!

A Deeper Connection

The four letters of Hashem’s name exist within every Yid. The final hei, parallel to the sefirah of malchus, represents the awareness of a Yid that Hashem is his king and that he, as his subject, must fulfill His commands.

When a person sins and disobeys the command of his King, it demonstrates that there is a problem with his final hei. What, indeed, is the underlying cause of this flaw?

The connection of a Yid with Hashem is much deeper than that of a servant and a king, where the two exist as separate entities. A Yid’s relationship begins much earlier, as his neshamah exists above; and furthermore—as it stood before having been blown by Hashem, when it was completely unified with Him—ישראל וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד.

It’s true that this is an extremely lofty level that can only be attained by great tzaddikim. However, when a person studies and reflects on this concept, he will tell himself: True, I am not holding at such a level. But since the truth is that I am one with Hashem, to the very least I must follow His commands and refrain from sinning!

If a person is not aware of this concept and views his relationship with Hashem in the limited scope of a subject and a king, he may stumble and transgress. But when he realizes that his association is much deeper than that, because in essence he and Hashem are one, his resolve to follow His Will is much more passionate and steadfast and he will be less predisposed to disobey His command.

A Higher Awareness

This is also the reason Chassidus often discusses lofty levels that cannot be achieved by the average individual. Even though they may be beyond our reach, they affect the way we view our connection to Hashem and how we perform the avodah that does pertain to us.

The Rebbe Rashab explains in Kuntres Eitz Chaim that while a person must strive to reach the level of yichuda tata’ah, the level of yichuda ila’ah is beyond the reach of most people. Nonetheless, in order to accomplish the avodah of yichuda ila’ah properly, one must learn about and contemplate on the level of yichuda ila’ah.

We find a parallel in Halacha. When a person sells the dates of a palm tree, the kinyan can only take effect if the dates have already grown; otherwise they fall under the category of a davar shelo ba le’olam, an article that has not yet come into existence, and their ownership cannot be transferred.

Nonetheless, the halacha is that one can sell a dekel lepeirosav, a palm tree for the sake of harvesting its fruits. In other words, one can sell the palm tree for the specific purpose of harvesting the dates. Although they have not yet begun to grow, the palm tree is an existing entity.

One can ask: What is the difference between these two cases? Just like the kinyan cannot take effect when one sells not-yet-grown fruits, it should not take effect when he sells a tree for its fruits. Of what consequence is the fact that the tree exists if the buyer has no permission to do anything with it yet?

However, the difference is easily understood. In the first case all we’re dealing with are the fruits and nothing more. In the second case, by contrast, the object under discussion is the tree. True, all he is getting are the fruits, but they are fruits as they are part of the tree. The fruits themselves are now different.

This concept can be applied to many areas, including teshuvah. When a person views his resolve to fulfill Hashem’s Will—the most basic form of teshuvah—as an offshoot of a much deeper idea, teshuvah tata’ah and even teshuvah ila’ah, his teshuvah will be imbued with a completely different kind of impetus and energy.

For further learning see לקו”ש חלק ל”ט הוספות אגרת התשובה ב’.