THE GATE OF RETURN
The primary allegory to illustrate the matter of the upper Teshuvah, in which the arousal is from above down, and the lower Teshuvah, in which the arousal is from below up, is the spark which is drawn closer to the flame. When the spark is distant from the torch, its light slowly diminishes. However, the closer it comes to the torch, the more will it radiate and shine to greater breadth and height. When it comes totally close to the torch it becomes included in its [fire]. This is similar to the moon. As it comes closer to the sun its light becomes brighter. [Here we are not speaking about the “full moon”, but, rather, about when our entire orbit, along with the moon, comes closer to the sun. Furthermore, the allegory of the “spark and flame” may be better understood by how the light of a charcoal will become dim and will finally be extinguished if it becomes separated from the bonfire. On the other hand, when it is close to the roaring flames of the bonfire it will continue to burn.]
In the above example, there are two possibilities. The first is that the torch or flame comes close to the spark. Through this, automatically, the spark will ignite and shine, until it becomes included in the fire of the torch. The second possibility is that the spark arises from below up and slowly but surely comes closer to the torch.
It is known, and has been explained elsewhere, that these two possibilities are called the upper Teshuvah and the lower Teshuvah. When there is revelation from above down, so that the essence of G-dliness radiates within the souls of Israel, so that they are automatically inspired and aroused to return to HaShem, this is the upper Teshuvah which precedes the lower Teshuvah. This is as stated, “Return us HaShem to You” and only afterwards the verse continues “and we shall return” with a true return which is established forever. This is similar to the time during the ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (during which time “the King is in the field”), or like the Heavenly voice mentioned previously. But, when the arousal to repent and return to G-d is from below, from the Jewish people themselves, that their souls ascend and come closer [to G-d] from below up, this is called the lower Teshuvah. This is similar to the spark which ascends from below up, and is specifically [refering to] when the spark is distant. [In other words, this takes place specifically in sinners, as mentioned above, for they are aware of their distance from G-d and are embittered over it, which propels them to come closer.]
We may now understand the matter of the two opposite, bitterness and joy, which may be found in a returnee, as previously explained, that he is pained and brought to tears over the sins of his youth, and because of his constant fall every day, with extraneous evil thoughts, and that he makes a strong resolution in his heart every day not to follow a path of emptiness any longer. This is the aspect of the lower Teshuvah. In other words, he uproots and separates himself from the place of impurity. This is also called, “tears of weeping”, i.e. that he is aroused to tears, as stated, “with tears they shall approach” and “he shall surely go with tears”. It is apparent that at all times, this “going” is specifically through tears. Now, this same “going” in which he has uprooted and separated himself from his previous place of impurity, and is coming closer to holiness, this certainly is similar to the spark which comes close to the torch and radiates more light, as mentioned above. In other words, because he is coming closer to G-d, he will radiate with joy and happiness, as explained above.
This matter is similar to the statement, “Peace, peace, to the distant and to the near”, that is, the distant one becomes closer. Now, how is it possible for a person who is distant, such a complete sinner, to become close to G-d, literally like those servants of G-d, who are close to the light of the face of the living King? Certainly, it must be understood that it is because HaShem comes out of His place and descends below to himm, as it states, “G-d is close to the broken hearted”. These broken hearted are those who are truly repentant, whose hearts are shattered into tiny pieces because of their great bitterness and submission. This broken spirit is, literally, compared to a sacrificial offering before G-d, as stated, “The sacrifices of the Lord are the broken spirit”. This descent of HaShem, to uplift the broken hearts of true returnees is similar to how a heavenly fire descended upon the altar [during the time of the first Temple, in Jerusalem]. This is because, “The Lord is exalted, and beholds the lowly”. In other words, because of a person’s tears of bitterness and lowliness, which are called, “the lower waters which cry out, ‘we desire to be before the King’”, the King descends to uplift him.
Furthermore, it states, “G-d seeks all hearts”, and it states, “If you seek Him, He shall be found by you”. This is like the allegory of the torch and flame which is drawn down to the sparks. This is the meaning of “He shall be found by you”, wherever you may be, even in the lowest of levels. This is similar to the statement, “Seek HaShem when He is found”, such as during the ten days of repentance when the “torch” is drawn to the sparks because of His great mercy. Then, when He is close, all the sparks of the wayward and lost return to the light, and literally become near to G-d. This is the explanation of what we said above, that one who is distant literally becomes close.
We find that in this allegory itself, there are two aspects of Teshuvah, the upper Teshuvah and the lower Teshuvah. In other words, it is not that the entire lower Teshuvah comes about because of the upper Teshuvah. On the contrary, the lower Teshuvah is what caused the upper Teshuvah, so that He should descend from His place etc. This is the explanation of the matter of joy which follows the weeping, when he “is going in tears”, as explained above. At that moment itself he returns to HaShem joyfully with his entire heart, because HaShem is literally close to him. This is compared to a son who was distanced from his father. Certainly, his path to his father will be that of weeping, seeking out and searching for his father. However, when he sees his father, he will laugh and cry at the same moment. Likewise the joy and weeping in his “travel” towards HaShem are as one. This then is the meaning of the statement, “with weeping shall they come”. The approach is certainly to come close to and greet the face of their Father in Heaven. Certainly in Him they will rejoice (for, He is what they desire). Nonetheless, the “travel” towards the holy, “to behold the pleasantness of HaShem”, is with tears. This is Teshuvah – return to G-d, from the depths of the heart, such as the statement, “If Israel do Teshuvah, they are be redeemed”.
Now then, in truth, it should have said, “with tears they shall go”, rather than “with tears they shall come”. The explanation of the matter is that there are two catagories of tears. The first are tears of bitterness about his many sins and his hardened heart, and about the fact that his evil inclination overpowers him at all times, to push him into every type of impurity in thought [speech and action] etc. Because of this, when he is alone his soul will cry out, “When will I be through with this evil and harsh death”? Now there are two possibilities in this. The first is that his tears flow immediately and automatically, as soon as he recalls his actions and thoughts, and only evil resides in his heart etc. This is the true subjugation of his heart, and its essential humility. This is similar to the natural humility in the heart of a beggar, who immediately upon recalling the poverty and pitiful state that he is in, in that he is afflicted with the difficulties of raising his children and in his health or sustenance, will immediately cry bitter tears. This is the similar nature of the soul of the sinner. [Upon doing teshuvah-Returning to G-d, he is immediately brought to tears, with a tremendous sense of lowliness and humility, because of his transgressions. This is called a broken and shattered heart, which [he feels] constantly, similar to a poor person whose heart is lowly and humble at all times.
The second possibility is that he will not cry with complete bitterness immediately when he recalls all the sins of his youth, and how his heart is bound to a place of impurity. Rather, it is only after he contemplates deeply how he caused a blemish in the light of his soul, and that he is literally considered to be like a dead person, and how he never ever will behold the face of G-d, for he is completely cast out. Only then, will he be cry true tears. However, during the time that his heart is high, and his spirit is coarse because of his self involvement with the pleasures of the world or because of the spreading forth of his heart with haughtiness and arrogance, then, his heart becomes as hard as stone and none of the contemplation about what his sins have caused will be of help to him at all. It is only when he will be afflicted through his children, health, or sustenance, or at times when his heart is broken over some other matter that he will come to repent with a broken heart. This is a much lower level than the Baal Teshuvah-Returnee mentioned above, who immediately upon recalling his sins is touched to the very core of his heart, literally as a natural response. This is because it has touched the very core of his soul, which is higher than any reasoning or contemplation. Nonetheless, there is a benefit to those who return because they recognize that they have caused a blemish in G-dliness, i.e. those of the second category. The benefit is in the fact that his return is specifically to G-d, and he does not desire to be distant. Therefore, his tears are of the second category and are called tears of joy as will be explained in the following chapter.