THE GATE OF RETURN
We may now begin to understand the explanation of the verse which was mentioned earlier, “My tears have been my bread etc”. It was explained before, regarding the matter of the midnight prayer of Tikkun Chatzot, that it is the appropriate time for weeping, with tears, about one’s sin of casting off the yoke of Heaven. Now, we must understand exactly why specifically tears make a greater difference than everything else, in regard to this sin of casting off the Heavenly yoke. In order to understand this, we must precede with the explanation of the verse, “Do not stray after your hearts and after your eyes”.
It is stated, “The eyes and the heart are the two agents of sin. The eye sees and the heart lusts”. If this is so, then the verse above should have been stated in the reverse. It should have said, “Do not stray after your eyes and after your hearts”. In other words, it first should have said that one should not stray after his eyes to look, and then the automatic result would be that the heart would not lust for the object that he sees. Why then does the verse first state, “Do not stray after your hearts” [and only later, “after your eyes”]?
Now, we explained above in the explanation of the three levels of purity of Tom, Tamim and Tam, that a person who is pure and complete in his actions is higher than all the other levels of purity. This is because, as previously explained, “the end is bound with the beginning”. [In other words, the fact that his actions are completely pure and complete, and totally separate from sin and evil, is because in the essence of his soul he is completely pure, whole, and separate from evil.] Likewise, it is understood here, regarding Teshuvah – repentance and return to G-d, that it is divided into three levels.
The first level is repentance in action, i.e. that he desists from evil completely, in actuality, like “the clean handed person” mentioned earlier. The second level is the repentance of the heart, which is the repentance and remorse which he feels in his heart, when he recites the Viduy confession. This is called “acknowledgement and leaving off” [i.e. admitting to the evil of past behavior and making the commitment to leave these evil ways in the future.] Now, the actual act of leaving the sin and desisting from his evil actions is the first level of “repentance in action”, which is the main matter of repentance. The repentance of the heart, of confession, includes both the remorse in his heart, and the actual confession with his mouth. In other words, this is the revealed humbling of himself, like a servant who confesses his misdeeds before his master. It is specifically through this that he becomes desirable before his master. However, if he does not admit to his sins, and says “I have not sinned”, his “repentance” is not desirable whatsoever, as stated, “Behold, I will enter into judgment with you, because you say, ‘I have not sinned’.” Therefore, a soul which sins and only repents with Teshuvah in the thoughts of his heart, but did not confess his evil ways, is lowered to Sheol [the grave or pit, referring to hell] and is then uplifted from there, as stated, “He brings down to the grave, and brings up”, as is explained elsewhere. The third level is the repentance of the desire and the thought, that he uproots his evil desires from their very foundations and removes them completely, so that he no longer has any desire for this evil forever. This is a more inner aspect of repentance than the previous two levels.
It was explained above in the matter of the levels of purity of Tam and Tamim, that purity in action is higher and greater than the purity of the mind and heart. Likewise, it is understood regarding the matter of repentance that one who returns to G-d and leaves sin in actuality, in that he no longer follows that path, is greater than them all. In other words, the source of his repentance is higher than the repentance of the desire in the brain, mentioned above. The proof for this is from the fact that we can clearly see that the thoughts of repentance in his heart and mind can cease at times, and he can return to falling into all sorts of evil thoughts.
Then he returns again and repents in his heart and mind etc. This is not the case at all with one who returns in actuality, in other words, that he no longer desires to follow the lusts of his heart and mind at all. This is like one who does not listen to the agents which tempt him to come to into the hands of sin. In other words, these are the eyes and heart, which are called the agents and intermediaries to draw him after sin and to bring extraneous evil thoughts and desires into his heart, to the point that his very soul is caused to become impure in actuality. This is like the agent of a prostitute who tempts one to desire her. Likewise, the eye sees and the heart desires, and they are called the agents who tempt, in actuality. But, when he does not allow himself to stray after his heart and his eyes, this is the root of the matter of Teshuvah – repentance which is called repentance in action.
This then is the meaning of “Do not stray after your hearts and after your eyes”. The intent is that he should not allow himself to desire and stray after that which his heart dictates. In other words, he no longer follows the lusts of his heart. Such a person is called a penitent in actuality and in action.
If so, then for this reason it first says “Do not stray after your hearts” and only afterwards, “and after your eyes”. For, certainly, before he goes to the place of impurity, his heart draws him there. Only afterwards, when he arrives at that place do his eyes see and gaze, and then when he looks, he is drawn with a lust of the heart to engage in or think about the sin. It is then that the eyes precede the heart. This is stated by the Sages, “One who gazes at women, will come to the hands of sin in the end”, in actuality. This is because the eye is the agent which brings and draws down the power of impurity, to cause the heart of man, which is called “a prostitute”, to become aroused with a fiery lust. This is as stated, “Asher atem zonim achareihem - which you stray after [the eyes and the heart]”. [The root of the word “zonim” which is translated as “stray” is really “zonah” which means “prostitute”.] “Prostitute” is the aspect of the feminine. This is like the female who lusts after the male, and her entire heart is drawn after him, to receive his influence. This is only when she goes after the lusts of her heart to the place of impurity, that then, the eyes see etc. This is not the case if she would not leave her house at all [i.e. follow the lusts of her heart].
Likewise, the aspect of the “crowns of disgust”, the Keters of the external shells of evil are called the “influencers”, and man is called, “the prostitute who strays after them”, [i.e. the receptacle] to become impure with their impurity. This happens specifically when he strays after his heart to be drawn there, as in the teaching, “One who comes to make himself impure, they open the gates of impurity for him”, referring to these influencers of every type of impurity.
We, therefore, find that the main aspect of Teshuvah – repentance and return to G-d, is specifically in action, i.e. that he not return to the path of his heart. Therefore, this is the reason why it states, “Do no stray after your hearts” firstly, because the heart is called the agent from the recipient to the influencer. Only afterwards does it state, “and after your eyes” which is called the agent from the gates of impurity of the influencer to the recipient, to cause the heart to lust and become aroused. This is the explanation of the statement that they are the two agents of sin, and this will suffice for those of understanding. [That is, the heart is the agent from man to receive the evil influence, while the eyes are the agents of the influencers of evil to cause man to sin.]
Now, this is not to say that “Do not stray” does not also apply to “after your eyes”, for indeed it does. This is to say that even when the evil comes to him suddenly, without him drawing his heart towards it first, he should close his eyes from gazing at evil. About this he is warned not to pursue what he may suddenly see, to stray after his eyes, like Samson, who strayed after his eyes. [It is noteworthy that the Talmud states that because he sinned with his eyes, he was punished with his eyes, and they were poked out.] Here too, in the gazing of his eyes, there is an aspect of repentance in action. In other words, he should shut his eyes so that he should not be drawn after the crowns of disgust, through intentional gazing, “Asher atem zonim achareihem - which you stray (prostitute) after them”, literally.
It is, therefore, understood by all those who have a desire for true and complete Teshuvah, that the foundation of repentance is merely the lack of action, i.e. to be a “Shev V’Al Ta’aseh – One who sits and desists from any action”. In other words, he pushes from his heart every evil, and does not stray after his heart. This is because, “the heart of man is evil from his youth”, and it is because of this that he is drawn to think every type of evil. Each time that he pushes this evil out of his heart completely, it is called repentance in action and actuality, that is, he is leaving the ways of sin. Although he is only abstaining from allowing his heart to think about the evil, this is literally like one who does not allow himself to be drawn after his heart to a place of evil, for they are one and the same thing.
This is the main fulfillment and establishment of his repentance, as stated, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This verse mentions walking, standing and sitting. The “walking” is in action, that he should not turn and stray after his heart to begin with. The “standing” is when his heart is already turned there, and he is already standing “in the path of the sinners” etc. This will suffice for those of understanding.
(In truth, we must understand the mention of “the seat of scoffers” at the end of the verse, for from this we infer that it is much stronger and worse than “the counsel of the wicked” and “the way of sinners”. At first glance though, the aspect of “scoffing” and joking seems to only be baseless merriment and merrymaking, and not actually complete sin. How then is it worse then the two previous levels?
Rather, the explanation of the matter is that in regard to “the counsel of the wicked” who tempt him to fall to sin, and “the way of sinners” in which he stands and is ready to sin, he is, nonetheless, able to come to true Teshuvah – repentance from this evil path. This is as stated, “Do not stray”, i.e. do not listen to “the counsel of the wicked”. In the case of these two categories, it is quite possible that these desires may subside from his heart because of his fear of G-d, because he does not want to destroy his soul. In contrast, when he is “sitting in the seat of scoffers” there is no hope of him ever repenting. The reason for this is because the source of “the seat of scoffers” is in the aspect of completely casting off of the Heavenly yoke, which was explained earlier.
In the aspect of casting off the Heavenly yoke, there are two possibilities and ways that it may be. The first is that he does not consider having any fear of G-d at all, for he says, “The L-rd has forsaken the land, and the L-rd does not see”. Or, he does not consider that he is about to destroy his soul, for he only desires to fulfill his lust, even though his end will be bitter. This is because he is overpowered by his inclination which burns within him. Now, merriment and joking is worse than all of the above. This is because the source of the merriment and joking comes because of the frivolity in his soul. This is the matter of his heart being greatly open to every whim that occurs to it, without restraining the spirit of his heart in any matter. This is the nature of the “white gall” whose nature leads to frivolity and baseless merriment at all times. In other words, it is this nature which causes all his laughter and lightheadedness, and his expansive spirit, which is unrestrained, and his excessive frivolous and baseless speech. This is all only because he is frivolous in the essential nature of his soul is. It is, specifically, these type of people who are called “scoffers”, because they scoff at every G-dly matter, since they do not take any serious consideration of it at all.
Such a person casts off the Heavenly yoke not because he intends to rebel against G-d, but rather, because of the frivolity and shallowness of his soul, that his heart is open to merriment and scoffing at everything. (i.e. he is incapable of taking anything seriously.) Because of this, he has no sense or feel of any fear of G-d whatsoever, because he is the opposite of a fitting receptacle for the fear of G-d. This is not to say that he renounces G-d or that he does not believe in retribution for a person’s sins. Rather, he does not feel it at all, because of the “frivolous” nature of his soul, that he makes light of everything and is, literally, a joker. This is literally, is a form of madness and insanity, as stated, “And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands”. [The word for these scoffers is “Holelim”, and the word used in this verse for “mad” is “Vayitholel”. These share the same root.] This is the opposite of the faculty of Da’at which is the aspect of “feeling” and awareness, specifically.
This then is the meaning of the statement, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes”. This is because the category of scoffers, cannot ever receive a revelation of the Shechinah (G-d’s presence). The reason is because beholding the revelation of the Shechinah is only possible when there is fear of G-d and the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke, as known. These aspects of fear of G-d, and the Heavenly yoke are completely separate and removed from scoffers. On the contrary, they cast off the Heavenly yoke because of their great frivolity. It is for this reason that it has been stated regarding the terrible strength of this aspect of “scoffing”, that “one scoff pushes away one hundred rebukes etc”. In other words, no words of rebuke can cause the heart of the scoffer to fall [from his foolishness] and be humbled. This is not because of the hardness of his heart, but rather, it is only because of this nature in his soul, that his heart pushes away anything which feels to be a fear and yoke of Heaven that may come to conquer his heart and cause him to be humbled and restrain his spirit.
This is the meaning of the statement, “Do not reprove a scorner… rebuke a wise man”, who is the opposite of the scoffer. The wise person is one, who by the nature of his soul, feels the rebuke in his heart, and constantly restrains his heart. He is one who constantly has an aspect of subjugation to G-d (the Koach Mah of Chochmah [the sublimation of the light of wisdom] mentioned earlier), to receive the Heavenly yoke upon himself. Therefore, with a moment of rebuke his heart is conquered, for he is a proper receptacle for this. This is because his heart is closed and contracted, which is the opposite of the openheartedness and spreading forth of the scoffers. (This is the nature of the “black gall”, i.e. that his heart is contracted and humbled to receive upon himself the Heavenly yoke. This is the type of nature of the wise man, to love rebuke, and he is zealous and studious by nature, in all of his studies.)
This is the meaning of the verse, “One rebuke enters more into a wise man than a hundred [physical] blows to a fool”. In other words, he immediately feels every rebuke and reproof in his heart, more than a fool feels a hundred lashes. For, the heart of the fool is that of the scoffer, with no feeling whatsoever, even when he is in the very heat of the fire, like lashes. This is as stated, “Though you should grind a fool in a mortar among crushed grain with a pestle, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” This is not the case with one who understands a reproof in the depths of his heart, even a single rebuke, as stated, “One rebuke in the heart of man is better than one hundred lashes etc.” But, there is no hope for the scoffer, only, “Cast out the scoffer etc”, and this will suffice for those of understanding.
Now, the source of this Kelipah – external shell of evil of the scoffers, is called Kelipat Haplishtim – The Kelipah of the Philistines, as stated, “The Philistines were scoffers”. (This is also as explained elsewhere on the matter of “And Yitzchak settled and dug a well etc. which the Philistines had closed up”. In other words, the aspect of the Philistines, which are the scoffers and merrymakers, closed up the light of the love of G-d of Avraham which radiates every day during the prayers of a Jew. Because of this, he immediately falls into foreign loves because he has “sat in the seat of scoffers” this being merriment and scoffing, which is like an open thoroughfare. In other words, his heart is like an open thoroughfare which is open to every type of laughter and foreign pleasure, without any feeling for any [matter of spiritual refinement], as explained above. Now, this is not the case with Yitzchak, who personified the aspect of fear of G-d, which is included within the love of Avraham, with the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke. Here, the aspect of the Philistines, which is the Kelipah of scoffing, that closes heart and conceals the G-dly light, has no effect at all. This is because, the aspects of the fear of G-d and acceptance of the Heavenly yoke of Yitzchak, is its literal and ultimate opposite.)
This then is the meaning of “Happy is he… who has not sat in the seat of scoffers”. For, if he did sit there, he would automatically follow the advice of the wicked and stand in the path of sinners, because of the casting off of the Heavenly yoke, that his heart becomes open to everything. (This is like Apikorsim (the rebellious) who know their Master rebel against the L-rd, intentionally, that they literally rebel against Him. These people are called scoffers, and this is the aspect of Keter, Chochmah and Binah of the external shells of evil (Kelipah), because included in two hundred is one hundred.)
From the above we may discern the meaning of the verse, “Surely He scorns the scorners”. In other words, “One who comes to contaminate himself”, for his heart is opened to everything with merriment, he draws upon himself all the gates of impurity, which is the meaning of “He scorns the scorners”. From this we must say that the casting off of the Heavenly yoke causes the gates of impurity to be drawn down upon him, and that these “scoffers” are receptacles for the casting off of the Heavenly yoke. (There is actually no difference between these scoffers explained above, and Apikorsim [the intentionally rebellious]. The only difference is that with regard to the Apikorsim – rebellious, it is the casting off of the Heavenly yoke which causes their scorn. In contrast, with regard to the “scoffers” it is this nature of their souls, this frivolous nature of their souls, which causes them to cast off the Heavenly yoke. These two categories are literally the same, only that for scoffers there is hope of repentance through great affliction and tribulation, to humble the frivolity of their hearts. This is not the case with the intentionally rebellious Apikorsim, as known.)