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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight

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THE GATE OF RETURN
CHAPTER FOUR

The above explains the verse, “The foolish afflict themselves on account of their sinful ways”.  These sinners are rebels, who have cast off the yoke of Heaven. If they have not repented for the fundamental problem [which is the casting off of the yoke], then they are still [considered to be] foolish in their sinful ways.  In other words, although they may afflict themselves, [nonetheless] they continue to rebel, following the whims of their hearts without the fear of G-d or the yoke of Heaven upon them, whatsoever.  What difference does it make that at times such a person regrets the sins he has done, or even fasts [on account of them]?  This verse wonders about these fools. They fast for their sins, but [of what use is it, since] it will not help their souls in any way, whatsoever.  This is because they have not yet rectified the primary cause of their ruination at its very root and foundation.  They have not yet corrected [the fact that they have] cast off the yoke of Heaven, which is the [original] cause of all their subsequent sins and transgressions, as mentioned above.  Therefore, all the self torment, fasting or affliction of their bodies etc, will not make the slightest difference [in regard] to the [actual] sin or transgression itself, since they will certainly revert to their evil [ways] and stray off the path once again.  Then, they will again be full of remorse and they will fast again for their sins, yet they remain wicked.  About this it states, “The wicked are full of remorse”.  That is, because they constantly fall to ruination and sin, they are constantly full of regrets and remorse. This happens repeatedly.

Now, the main rectification for his soul, which he caused to become impure through his sins and transgressions, is through tears and weeping during the midnight prayer of Tikkun Chatzot, about the fact that he has cast off the Heavenly yoke.  He should place it well upon his heart to accept the Heavenly yoke upon himself in truth and purity.  In other words, he should make a strong commitment from the very depths of his heart that he will not draw any evil thoughts upon himself that are against G-d’s will.  He must remove them from his heart completely, so that they do not arise at all, for he fears G-d.  Therefore, immediately when any evil does come into his heart, he will push it away and remove it immediately, according to the strong commitment in his heart, so that he will no longer be a transgressor and a rebel with such a light attitude [i.e. make light of these matters and lack any seriousness in them]. 

Likewise, in the aspect of “doing good” by way of the positive commandments [as opposed to the above, which is the only the “desisting from evil” of the negative commandments], he will be precise in fulfilling his obligations according to the command of the King.  It is only then that his fasting and self affliction will make any difference relative to his past sins, in that he will never again return to his ruination.  For, certainly he has returned to G-d in truth, and the One who examines hearts, desires him and will accept his penance, as in the statement, “Your right hand is spread forth to accept penitents”.  This refers to those whose hearts are well prepared, and they have a strong commitment to desist and abstain from evil, so that when they do encounter evil, they immediately remove it from their hearts and thoughts completely.  This is specifically through the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke upon themselves.  This is as stated, “The ultimate goal of everything etc. fear G-d etc”.  In other words, he fears to rebel and cause blemish, which is the main foundation of repentance for sins and transgressions.

This is the meaning of the verse, “Also hold back your servant from willful sins, let them not prevail over me, then will I be pure and keep myself clean of gross transgression.”  One may ask, what is the connection of the two parts of this verse to each other?  In other words, if “they shall not prevail over me”, specifically, then “will I be pure”.  For, the main reason for the aspect of the rule of the sins, which are the external shells of evil, comes about because of the casting off of the Heavenly yoke, as explained previously.  Because he has cast off the heavenly yoke, he becomes fair game, and abandoned to all other dominion.  Because of this, all the external shells of evil cast extraneous evil thoughts upon him, to contaminate his soul.  He comes under their rule, so that even when he desires to consider repentance to    G-d, his soul becomes filled with extraneous, evil thoughts, so as to uproot the thoughts of repentance from his heart.  He is under the rule of the impure spirit, which causes him to become contaminated and impure.  Because, since he has cast off the Heavenly yoke and has brought himself to impurity many times, all the gates of impurity are opened up to him, as mentioned above.  This is due to a great lacking and insensitivity of his heart to the G-dly yoke. 

However, when “the sins do not prevail and rule over him”, in other words, when his heart is under his own control, so that he removes any evil from his thoughts and from his heart, immediately, as soon as any evil arises, this is a sure indication that he has left the category of “casting off of the yoke of Heaven”.  [It is a sign] that he now has somewhat of the Heavenly yoke upon himself.  Furthermore, it is known that the external shells of evil flee because of the radiance of the yoke of Heaven, as stated, “Just as wax melts... so shall the wicked be destroyed before G-d”.  This is also known concerning the verse, “For G-d is not within me”, literally, in a way of fear of G-d, “therefore, all these evils have found me”, that is, “you shall serve your enemies with a heavy yoke etc”.

(In truth, this is the main reason for the servitude of the exile (Galut), which includes two matters.  The first is the heavy yoke of difficult times, with suffering and difficulty in securing a livelihood, to the point that “with his soul shall he acquire bread etc”.  The second is that the enemies of Israel inflict all manners of evil against them, to cause them difficulty and suffering.  This is the meaning of the verse, “We have been swallowed by masters other than You”, which is only because of the aspect of the casting off of the Heavenly yoke mentioned earlier.  This is as stated, “Because you have not served G-d… with joy and goodhearted-ness” with the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke, with great desire, as in, “Your kingship they accepted upon themselves with desire”, therefore, “you shall serve your enemies with a heavy yoke etc”.  The punishment is literally according to the transgression.)

This is the meaning of the verse, “It is evil and bitter having left You etc”.  The explanation of “having left You” is that he has left the aspect of “Your kingship they accepted upon themselves with desire”.  [In other words, he no longer desires the Kingship of G-d upon himself.]  It is known that the aspect of Malchut – Kingship is called “fear”, and that when one casts off the fear of G-d, the fear of masters other than G-d is therefore placed upon him.

From the above, we can understand the meaning of “then will I be pure, and keep myself clean of gross transgression”.  This “gross transgression” is the rebelliousness against the Supernal Kingdom of G-d.  This “gross transgression” is higher than wisdom and reasoning. 

This is because there is transgression which is not gross.  That is, when his sins come because of his reasoning, that he says, “G-d has left the land” and he makes himself as if he does not know G-d.  This is because his soul is lacking the aspect of sublimation to the      G-dly “nothingness” which is called the “Koach Mah – The Power of What” of the soul.  [Chochmah can be spelled Koach Mah, which represents the aspect of sublimation to G-d, as in the verse “V’Nachnu Mah – And what are we”, i.e. selflessness and sublimation to G-d.]  This is like ignorant folk, and those lacking in knowledge, or the weak minded.  Because, [as known] “a person does not commit a sin except if a spirit of folly enters into him”, i.e. that he becomes literally like an animal.  In other words, the “form of Man” of Mah of Chochmah (which was mentioned previously), is removed from him.  [The numerical value of Mah (מה) is Adam which means “Man”.]  Or, this is because the spirit of his animal soul of his physical heart overpowers him.  In other words, his power of lust and desire rules over his soul, because he considers this thing to be permissible within him etc.  All of this is not yet considered to be “gross transgression”.

Rather, one who knows his Creator, and recognizes Him with the aspect of the Koach Mah – the Power of “What” (i.e. the sublimation to G-d) etc. and intends to rebel against G-d and cast off the Heavenly yoke, saying “I shall go according to the desires of my heart”, there is no fear of G-d in such a person in any way whatsoever.  This comes because he cuts his soul off from its root in G-d.  This is like the aspect of “other gods”, “who know their Master, and intend to rebel”.  These are the light minded and rebellious, which is higher and above the aspect of wisdom and reasoning, but comes because they are essentially evil.  This is one who in essence has destroyed his soul, and draws upon himself strange masters other than G-d, to be a servant to servants.  This is what is called “gross transgression” (which is the aspect of Keter of Kelipah –Crown of the external shells of evil). 

His Teshuvah is not accepted, for, as mentioned previously “they confuse the thoughts of the guilty”.  This is because he has caused blemish in the aspect of the highest level, the Yechidah of his soul, which is harsher than one who has blemished in the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah.  (This is the meaning of “Those who transgress Me”, in “the body of the King” which is the aspect of Keter (i.e. the Yechidah).  Likewise it says, “I have raised sons” in my brains of Chochmah, Binah and Da’at, “and I have uplifted them” to the Keter of Chochmah, “and they have transgressed Me” in My essence, which is the aspect of Keter etc.)

Now, when “the sins do not prevail” over him, this is the sign that he has left the category of casting off the Heavenly yoke.  [That is,] he does not have strange masters who swallow him up.  “Then I will be pure – Az Eitam”, in the essential purity of the essential point of the desire of the essence of the soul, which is above intellect and reasoning.  This level is called Eitam – I will be pure, but can be spelled Echad Tam (תםא, i.e. the Singular essence of the soul is pure.  These letters also share the same letters as the Hebrew word for Truth - Emet).

It is known that there are three levels in Tmeemoot – Purity.  The first is the purity of the intellect and reasoning, which is called Tamim - תמים.  This can be spelled, Tam Yam (תם ים).  [It is known that the letter Yod refers to Chochmah – Insightful Wisdom, and that Mem refers to the thoughts of Binah.  These two are the main intellectual sefirot.  Therefore, Tamim refers to the purity of the intellect and reasoning.  (Also, the numerical value of ים is 50, which corresponds to the 50 gates of Binah.)]  Now this level of purity is also the purity of the heart, for the brain and the heart are literally one, when he is pure.  In other words, his heart is completely pure, so that it does not change at all, that sometimes his feelings are such and at other times they are different.  One in this category is called an “Ish Tam V’Yashar – a pure and straight man”.  For example, Eyov (Job) is called “a pure and straight man who fears G-d and has left evil”, and Noach is called, “A righteous and pure man etc”. 

As is known, the arousal of the heart changes from hour to hour.  This is clearly observed in all those who become suddenly aroused with a fiery desire to repent and return to G-d in Teshuvah.  In a short period of time he may fall from this to its literal opposite.  In contrast, with those of pure heart, there is not as much of a great arousal of excitement, but he is true, for his heart is pure and complete in this, and this is how his heart literally is [in essence].  He is completely straightforward.  His heart does not lean to the right or to the left, nor will he be caused to change by any obstruction or obstacle.  For, his heart will never lean away from the straight path.

Now, the pureness of heart is called Tamim – pure, and when the pureness is only in his actions he is called Tamim B’Maasav – pure in his actions, which is the meaning of the verse, “Those who go in purity”.  He is one who is called, “a man who is pure and straight in his path and in his actions”.  He desists from evil in actuality, in a way of purity which endures forever, in that his actions will never change from good to evil.  Furthermore, he does not even consider any opposition or obstacles which attempt to obstruct him.  Also, it is known that “the beginning is bound to the end”.  The actual action is the end and its source is in the beginning.  [In other words, the fact that his actions are pure is because in essence he is pure.]  This is the main aspect of truth which is the attribute of the pure, that it is unchanging from beginning to end.  [The letters of Truth – Alef Mem Taf, are the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alef beit.  In other words, it is true, from the beginning, throughout the middle, until the very end.  Furthermore, they share the same letters as תםא, mentioned earlier.  In other words, the ‘א – the singularity of G-d is the beginning, and the תם – the purity, is the end, that he is pure in his actions.]

This then is the explanation of “then will I be pure”, תםא – A singular purity.  For, the source and foundation of this purity is in the desire, which is above reasoning.  Therefore, he does not deviate at all from the essential point of his simple and pure desire.  This is the meaning of “He who goes in purity will go in security” from external influences, which are called “strange masters”, as explained previously.  This is because “the beginning is bound up with the end”, so that even his “going” in action will be with security, without any confusion of extraneous thoughts whatsoever.  This is much greater than traveling this path with wisdom and reasoning, where at times he will err and fall, as mentioned above. 

From all of the above we understand the meaning of the verse, “Also hold back your servant from willful sins, let them not prevail over me, then will I be pure and keep myself clean of gross transgression.”  In other words, I will be clean from the source [and rule] of the external evil shells.  Only after this, the following verse continues, “The words of my mouth shall be desirable etc.”  In other words, his prayers will arise and be desirable before G-d and He will have desire in his soul, also in the way of a simple essential desire.  This is as stated in the Zohar, “Meritorious is the man whom G-d has desire in, that G-d removes from him every prosecution and He overturns gross transgression (פשע רב) into great influence and blessing (שפע רב)”.

Now, from the above the opposite is also understood, in one who follows the desires of his heart, and casts off the Heavenly yoke, which is the opposite of one who is pure in his actions, with the yoke of Heaven.  Such a person will not be cleaned from his gross transgressions, which is the source of the Kelipah – the external shells of evil.  For, he is a servant to masters other than G-d, and they will rule over him even during the time when he desires to repent.  They will confuse him with extraneous evil thoughts, even while he desires to repent, as explained previously.  This is because, it is known that G-d created everything with its opposite.  In other words, opposite the “depth of good” there is a “depth of evil” of the external shells of evil, as will be explained.

We may now understand the explanation of the verses, “Who may ascend the mountain of the L-rd, and who may stand in His holy place: He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not used my name in vain nor sworn falsely.”  There are three things mentioned in this verse.  The first is that he has “clean hands” in action specifically, that he has not stolen or murdered or spilled innocent blood in actuality, and he has not cheated in business.  He is called “clean handed” in the toil of his hands, and in his actions.  It is then that his prayers are received above, as stated, “then will I be pure, the words of my mouth shall be desirable etc”. 

In contrast, regarding the opposite [when he is not clean handed], it is stated, “You shall spread forth your palms, but I shall hide my eyes, for your hands are filled with blood”.  In other words, it is understood that even if he prays with intent, and “his palms are spread forth”, with his entire heart, “I shall hide my eyes” from his prayers, for “his hands are filled with blood”, since he is full of thievery and murder, even though during the time he is praying, his heart is proper. 

This is because the most important thing is the actions of his hands, since “the beginning is bound with the end”, as explained previously.  This is the meaning of, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart”, in other words, he has a pure heart in the way explained above, and “he has not carried his soul in vain”.  In other words, he has the aspect of the purity of the essential desire which is above the intellect and reasoning, which is called Tom – Pure (with a Cholam). [The explanation of a Cholam is that it is a vowel which is above the letter.  It is also a point.  This signifies that it is the essential “point” of desire which is above “intellect and reasoning”.  Because he is pure in essence, his actions will be pure as well, as previously explained.]  It is about him that the following verse states, “He will receive blessings from  G-d” in the eighteen blessings of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, that “the words of his mouth will be desirable”, and his prayers are heard.

In contrast, one who is not “clean handed”, although at times, during his prayers, he may be greatly aroused in his heart towards G-d, he will not “receive blessing”, for, “I shall hide my eyes from him”.

It is therefore understood from all of the above that the main thing is the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke, in action specifically, which is called “pure in his actions”.  This is the main rectification for the sins of one’s youth, specifically during the time of the midnight prayer of Tikkun Chatzot, as mentioned previously.