THE GATE OF RETURN
Certainly, “G-d seeks all hearts”, and He is specifically very close to the brokenhearted, as previously mentioned. This refers to one who is distant who has come close to G-d. This is because certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, G-d dwells in the heart which is truly broken to a much greater degree than how he is revealed to those who are close to him through true arousal of Divine pleasure during prayer, Torah study or the fulfillment of the Mitzvot-commandments etc, as is stated, “returnees are greater than the perfectly righteous”. This is because “G-d dwells with them to a greater degree”, as stated in the Zohar that He dwells with them from the aspect of His essence and innerness, even more than how He dwells with those who serve G-d with their souls, with Divine pleasure and joy (i.e. the perfectly righteous). As known, the reason for this is that the “depth of the heights” (Omek Rom) and the “depths below” (Omek Tachat) are in equal balance. It is for this reason that it states, “G-d is exalted above and he beholds the lowly”. Likewise it is stated, “The heaven is My throne… upon these I gaze, upon the poor and the low of spirit…” This is because specifically according of His astounding exaltedness does He descend down to the lowest of places. This is because just as there is no limit to the “depth of the heights” and His exaltedness above, so too, there is no measure to His ability to descend down, [even] to the lowliest of the “depths below”. It is for this reason that He specifically beholds the lowly, that is, a person who is completely humble. It is specifically such a person who will receive a revelation of the true “nothingness” of G-d. [In the case of the completely righteous, their coming close to G-d is through their own efforts. In contrast, with regard to true penitents, G-d descends to them, rather then vice versa. Certainly, this is greater than even the capabilities of the greatest of righteous men.]
[Now], there are various levels in this. The deeper a person’s bitterness and lowliness of heart, the more will he draw down the true light of the essence of G-dliness upon himself. (This is similar [to the cases] Natan of Tzotzita or [the case of] Eliezer Ben Dordiya, who attained his portion of the World to Come, because his soul left him through weeping, and other such people similar to them.)
This then, is the explanation of the above statement that G-d dwells with them to a greater degree than [even] the most perfectly righteous. It is because this [matter] is greater than the ability to ascend of the souls of those, “Who can ascend the mountain of G-d, who are of clean hands and of pure hearts etc.” In contrast, with regard to the true penitent, G-d Himself descends to them from the [very] depth of the heights to the depth below, as explained above by way of the analogy to the torch and flame which descends to ignite the sparks.
This is the meaning of “Your right hand is spread out to accept returnees”. Although they may be in the lowest pit due to their many sins, [nonetheless], You [G-d] accept them, as they are, even as they are still sunken in their impurities, so long as they return with a truly broken and contrite heart, as explained above. This is like Menasheh, who returned to G-d with all his heart, and thus, “Caused a commotion in the heavenly spheres, to receive him”. All of the above is called the “tears of bitterness” of the true Baal Teshuvah-Returnee, because he is greatly pained in his heart.
However, the second category of tears is called “tears of joy”. This is as explained above by way of the allegory of a son who seeks his father. When he finally sees him, he will both cry and [laugh] with joy, at once. This may be more clearly understood through first understanding the meaning of the verse in psalms, “My tears were as bread for me, day and night”. How is it that tears are likened to bread, which sustains man and gives him life?
Now, as known, the propitious time for these tears of repentance is [specifically] during the midnight prayers of Tikkun Chatzot. During this time [a Jew] recalls the sins of his youth, but primarily his tears are because he has cast off the yoke of Heaven, which is the root cause of all his subsequent sins. Casting off of the yoke of Heaven is that he follows every lust and whim of his heart, immediately fulfilling his desires, [without a thought to the consequences] because he does not set any fear of G-d before his eyes, whatsoever. Such thoughts do not fall upon his heart, for it does not even enter his mind that this may be against G-d’s will, or that he is blemishing his soul, [and that ultimately] this will [bring] complete destruction to it.
This is worse than those who only have a hardened heart at various times, without feeling fear and awe of G-d. This comes about solely because their hearts become uplifted due to wealth or children, or success in business. [Furthermore] he may become uplifted because of the honor given him etc. This is only temporary, since, once he experiences a downfall from his “high heart”, if he [loses his wealth] and agonizes over [his] poverty and his lowliness, or if his children cause him much grief, then his heart will soften greatly, and he will cry out [to G-d] from the bitterness of his soul. He will then confess the sins of his youth, and regret the fact that he has caused blemishes [upon himself] through his actions. He will clearly recognize that it is an evil and bitter [state of affairs] to be separate from G-d. He will be pained by his [own] evil, which afflicts him, for his sins and evil [ways] have become a “whip to smite him with”.
Such is not the case in regard to a person who walks rebelliously, following [the whims of] his heart due to his frivolous nature. [A person such as this] rebels [simply] because he gives no thought to his actions whatsoever. It is not because his heart is hardened, nor is it due to audacity, that he fears nothing. Rather, it is solely because he has cast off the yoke of Heaven completely. This is similar to the verse, “And they said to G-d leave us alone”. Therefore, even during a time when he [undergoes] pain and suffering, he certainly will not return to HaShem. The only thing that may cause him to return is if he is placed under the heavy yoke of his enemies and [oppressors], who pursue him [and make his life miserable] until they subjugate him totally. It is only then that he will recognize and understand that it is only because he has cast off the yoke of the fear of Heaven, that the yoke of alien fear was placed upon him, i.e. fear [of his enemies] who despise [the life of] his soul. This is as stated, “Because you did not serve G-d, you will serve your enemies”. The yoke of livelihood is similar to this. In other words, it will be become very burdensome and difficult for him to earn his livelihood, to the point that he, literally, becomes fed up with his life. Only then will his heart be humbled so that he will come to do true Teshuvah, and repent with tears over his frivolousness and light heartedness, that he rebelled against his Maker, and cast off the yoke of Heaven. Then will he return to G-d, and truly accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven. In other words, as soon as any evil thoughts enter into his mind, there will fall upon his heart a great fear and trepidation, not to follow the whims of his heart against the will of G-d, and he will resist it, because the fear of G-d is [literally] before his eyes.
(An example of the above was the case of Menasheh, who returned to G-d with all his heart. Nonetheless, [prior to this] all the rebukes by which he was chastised [had no effect on him whatsoever and] did not bring him to repent. It was only the suffering he was subjected to at the hands of his enemies, when he was defeated by the king who conquered him, that moved him to repent. Now, although his sins (of idol worship etc.) were no different than the kings that preceded him, [nonetheless] he sinned specifically to anger G-d and to rebel [against him], as is evidenced by the incident of his golden calf. All of this is part and parcel of the matter of casting off of the yoke of Heaven, mentioned above.)
Every person is capable of finding this [matter] within himself, and of understanding how the casting off of the yoke of Heaven is worse than the actual alien thoughts themselves. It is quite possible that a person’s alien evil or lewd thoughts of licentiousness or adultery did not come into his heart out of the heat of his lusts, for he would never commit such an act, or even think about them. Rather, he purposely brings these thoughts of lust and licentiousness upon himself. He brings these thoughts upon himself several times, until when his mind is in the depths of it, he arouses the [actual] heat of his natural lusts. This is similar to the matter of one who purposely brings about an erection in himself, specifically through licentious thoughts, rather than with his hands. Such a person is in a state of banishment above and he is forbidden from entering into the domain of the Holy One blessed be He, as is known from the writings of our holy Sages of blessed memory. This only befalls a person who is frivolous by nature and does not place the fear of heaven upon his heart. He does not say to himself, “How can I intentionally bring such impurity upon myself”, or “This is disgusting before G-d, and because of this I will be impeded from coming close to holiness and G-dliness”. [Rather] he does not [even] consider [any of] this at all, because he is like an animal. [In other words, just like an animal] he does not hesitate from any desire which arises in his heart, even if he is not [particularly] aroused towards it at the moment at all. It is [self] understood that the casting off of the yoke of Heaven is the source of the arousal towards [all] these evils, which follow it.
[However] such is not the case with one who has placed fear of G-d upon his heart. Immediately, when an evil thought arises in his heart, he pushes it out of his heart and restrains himself, so as not to contaminate his soul. This is because the yoke of Heaven is upon his heart, at least [to the degree that] he will not [willingly] cause his mind to engage in frivolity and [thus he will not] draw these thoughts upon himself to begin with.
Therefore, the punishment of one who [willingly] brings these evil thoughts upon himself is that he is banished from the domain of the holy. In other words, even if at times, he returns to G-d, in a way of “coming close”, in that at times he attempts to exert himself during the prayer, [nonetheless] he is not permitted in. [From above] they confuse his thoughts and his heart, and he quickly falls from his service, as is known to those who know. This is as stated in the Zohar, “The thoughts of the guilty are confused [from above]”. This does not necessarily mean that they have transgressed actual sins, but rather, that they have intentionally cast off the yoke of Heaven. According to the Torah, one who is in this category is called a Rasha – a wicked person. This is because the essential reason why a person is called a Rasha, is because he does not take the yoke of Heaven into consideration, whatsoever. He sins purposely and does not repent. For example it states, “And he [Moshe] said to the Rasha (the wicked one), why would you smite your fellow?” etc. [The wicked one referred to here did not actually hit his fellow yet, but rather only raised his hand against him in a threatening way, with the intention of hitting him.]