THE GATE OF RETURN
We must now understand the continuation of the verse, “He did not sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the Torah of the L-rd, and in His Torah he toils day and night”. Now, at first glance these are two complete opposites [i.e. the sitting of scoffers and the toil in Torah]. How then can they be connected and juxtaposed to one another? For certainly the simple understanding of the words, “his delight is in the Torah of the L-rd” is the literal opposite to “walking in the counsel of the wicked…” and “sitting in the seat of scoffers”.
Now, in truth, the main opposition to the above evil is repentance in action and in actuality, to “not walk in the counsel of the wicked”. This was explained above, in the explanation of “Do not stray after your hearts etc”. Rather, the end of the verse, “his delight is in the Torah of the L-rd” must be referring to “the seat of scoffers”, which it immediately follows. In other words, the literal opposition to “the seat of scoffers” is the zealousness in the toil of study of the Torah of G-d.
According to what we said previously, that sitting “in the seat of scoffers” is worse than all the other external shells of evil (Kelipah), what then is the meaning of what the Psalmist says that its rectification is only through the Torah of G-d?
Now, certainly it is true that the main aspect of true repentance (Teshuvah) is only the abstinence from evil, to “not walk in the counsel of the wicked etc”. However, the fact that “he has not walked… stood… or sat…” in the ways of wickedness, is because “his delight is in the Torah of the L-rd”. The fact that “his delight is in the Torah of the L-rd” is because he has rectified the blemish of his soul, of “casting off of the Heavenly yoke”, through tears of repentance during the midnight prayer of Tikkun Chatzot. This is the meaning of the verse, “My tears have been my bread etc”.
For, anyone who truly desires to come close to G-d and to not be cast aside, should understand and recognize that the entire reason for his distance from the living G-d and following the whims of his heart, falling into every type of evil thought and sin, is only because he does not guard his soul, and does not conquer his heart and spirit.
In other words, when he is sitting together with others, he should make sure not to be frivolous and lightheaded, opening his heart to all manner of merriment and joking, speaking every thought that arises in his soul, with expansive speech and a tongue that runs. For, we clearly see regarding the matter of vain speech and idle chatter, that although they may not be words of scorn and frivolity, nonetheless, we see that a person abundantly speaks all sorts of idle and vain words without ant self restraint. This is only because his heart is light and his spirit is coarse, for he does not put the shame [of G-d] in his heart, to consider in his soul before whom he stands and sits and [before whom he] speaks all these words of vanity with such great abundance. This is only because his feeling of any fear of G-d is so minute. Therefore his words come out with great breadth and expansiveness, unrestrained in any way. All of this flows from one source, the same source which causes him to pursue the whims of his heart and to fall to every lust that his soul desires. This source is the casting off of the yoke of Heaven, literally.
Now, although the Torah does not explicitly forbid idle chatter, nonetheless, its effect is that it definitely uproots the fear of G-d from a person’s heart completely. This is certainly true with regard to children’s chatter, i.e. joking and merriment, in which there surely is an even greater measure of “casting off the Heavenly yoke”, to the point that it is very close to the aspect of the scorn, merriment and boastfulness of the Kelipah of the Philistines, as explained above. Because his heart is so open [to everything] since no fear of G-d is before him at all, certainly, all the external shells of evil enter into such an open ruin. [These external shells of evil] draw all types of impurities upon his soul to destroy it. This is also the reason why he falls to the pursuit of the whims of his heart, and falls into extraneous evil thoughts. Therefore, the surest advice for this, so that a person should not become ensnared in the chambers of evil, is solely to keep his heart within his own domain and under control at all times, and that he should abstain from anything which comes upon him which ultimately will result in the casting off of the Heavenly yoke.
In other words, he should restrain his spirit from speaking idle chatter, and certainly words of merriment and joking, like children who sit and chatter abundantly in a joking manner. For, although they do not feel this to be a transgression and a blemish of their souls, it, nonetheless, is a powerful impurity and they are considered as having cast off the Heavenly yoke with intent to rebel. This is because (this idle chatter) uproots the fear of G-d from a person’s soul, from its very source, to the point where he can never achieve any level of sublimation to the True “Nothingness” (G-d), since he has already become lighthearted, through great frivolity, which is the opposite of the G-dly. Furthermore, as is known, a person cannot come close to that which is holy without great fear and humility of G-d in his heart, which is the opposite of lightheartedness and frivolity. This is because, all expansiveness of the heart and casting off of the yoke of Heaven “is an abomination before G-d”. This will suffice for those of understanding.
Now certainly, a person whose heart has been touched by the fear of G-d through true repentance, from the very depths of his heart, always feels shamed and humbled in his heart. Because of this, he will never become lighthearted, speaking frivolous and vain words, whatsoever. This comes about for two reasons: Firstly, because his heart is broken and despicable in his own eyes, and, in his heart, he is constantly agonizes and worries about the sins of his youth. Therefore, his heart will not feel uplifted, to expand into empty chatter or any type of merriment and jesting. This is because he feels like a penniless pauper, who is broken hearted, because he even lacks sustenance and bread. Therefore, his heart does not feel uplifted, [nor does he engage in] abundant in words of gaiety. Furthermore, he is not drawn after pleasures, such as hearing the voice of song, as “He sings songs with a dispirited heart”. [As the beggar is] so is the truly penitent. Because he feels humbled in the very essence of his soul like a spiritual pauper, (as opposed to the example of the physical pauper), his speech is minimal and his spirit is lowly. He will not be able to be lighthearted at all, and the matter casting off the yoke of Heaven will be far from him.
This is true also of a person who is not in a state of repentance at all times, but who, nonetheless, has this constant sadness and bitterness engraved upon his heart when he remembers his sins. This is similar to a person whose “black gall” is dominant by nature, so that he feels like a pauper because of the lackings of his soul. Even though he may be physically wealthy, having honor [and respect] etc, nonetheless, he always recognizes his true station, and feels despicable and disgusting in his own eyes. His “heart is like dust to all”, and he feels that all creatures are better than him. Even a person who cannot find actual sins and transgressions easily within his soul is, nonetheless, capable of finding and making a clear account of all his thoughts which were not for G-d, and of all his strange desires, and more specifically, his great distance from G-d and from Torah and Mitzvot, including [the lack of true] prayer from the [depths of his] heart.
If he truly searches [within himself] without fooling himself or making light of such matters, not finding fault with himself because of his natural love for himself, so that he is not be pedantic [with himself], then he will find that his soul is literally empty. Those who have a fear of sin, and greatly feel and are bothered in their hearts by even the finest of evils, which a person usually “tramples with his heels”, [for such a people, even the finest evil] will be greatly magnified in their eyes, and will immediately touch their heart upon remembering these sins. All those whose hearts are less sensitive, in regard to what they think and do, this is only because of the frivolousness and lightness of their heart, because of the lack of fear of sin.
Now, there are a great many levels of fear of sin, each person according to who and what he is. There are those who are anguished every time they open their mouths and fall to idle speech, and they certainly are pained when they fall to speaking words which express evil thoughts. Such a person will certainly be pained if, because of these evil thoughts, impurity comes upon him, this being blemishing the sign of the covenant (P’gam HaBrit), in which the external shell of an impure spirit rests upon his soul so that he becomes impure thereby etc. He takes everything into account. Such people are called “masters of accounting”, who take stock [of all their deeds] each and every day. Specifically during reciting the Shemah before retiring to sleep at night, one should take stock and examine everything he has done or thought throughout the day, putting his heart fully into it and [if he is honest in his assessment] he will be abguished by it. All this comes from fear of sin, which is the adversary of all transgressions which are the rebelliousness of casting off the Heavenly yoke as a result of lightheartedness and frivolity, i.e. that he does not consider nor take any account of anything, as mentioned above.
In truth, most people’s confusion is mainly in this matter. In other words, many people see all types of evil in themselves, without anything being concealed from them, not even half a thing, and yet they feel no need to be disturbed by this at all. Only at times, when a person is aroused [to G-dliness], will he feel himself to be full of evil. He then will become enraged about the state of his soul and may temporarily fall into sadness and depression. However, when he realizes that he is hopeless, he will revert to his former ruination to an greater degree than before, until “the faller shall surely fall”, for he despairs in his soul. In truth, this is only the counsel of the evil inclination whose intent is to cause him to fall completely. He must therefore be very strong, and must tell his heart that the reason these evils have come upon him and grasped him in their clutches, is because he has no fear of sin in his heart, and it is because of this lack of awareness in his heart during the day and other times, that he slowly falls into lightness and frivolity.
[He should know] that this is either because of his frivolous nature or because of his self-involvement that he forgets about fear of G-d. Because of this his fear of sin diminishes. This is because fear of sin and fear of G-d is one and the same. They are [totally] interdependent. Because, in his heart, he has no fear of G-d, he therefore has no fear of sin. He has no fear of sin because he has no fear of G-d. (This is as explained elsewhere on the verse, “Because our G-d is not among us” i.e. the fear of G-d, therefore, “these evils come upon us”.
However, there are many people who have the opposite problem. They worry over and above the proper measure, and agonize and overly worry about every evil that they discover in themselves to the point that they despair and feel that they are beyond hope. They feel this way even if the evil is only in matters of speech or thought alone, or that he finds himself lacking in the service of the mind or heart or in the toil of Torah and Mitzvot (the commandments) and the like. Now, of course, the path of repentance is such that the more one is pained in his heart, the more desirable and accepted is his repentance. However, this is only in regard specifically to action. Regarding thought, and specifically shortcomings in the performance of positive commandments, such as Torah study, Mitzvot or prayer, this additional agonizing is of no benefit whatsoever, for it is solely because he is physical and his body has a mixture of good and evil. The evil is the depression which pulls him to the side of evil, as is known. Rather, what he needs to do, is that immediately when his heart becomes pained, is to strengthen his heart and his commitment not to follow after vanity any longer, and to set the fear of G-d before him at all times, so that he should always fear sin. This will suffice for those of understanding.
The second reason that he feels shame and humility in his heart is because of fear of G-d, which is higher than fear of sin. This is so, although the two are one, as explained above that he fears sin because he fears G-d. Nonetheless, we see that there are people who fear sin, but, nonetheless, have no constant grasp of fear of G-d in their minds and hearts, such as during involvement with their livelihood (or because of coarseness in regard to permitted matters, such as lust for permitted food or permitted sexuality etc).
It may also be possible that a person’s fear of G-d may not be commensurate to his fear of sin. This may be seen in simple folk or women, who fear sin, such as transgressing certain sins such as Shabbat observance, murder, or adultery. This may even apply to lesser sins, which they will fear in their very souls because they are foreign to their hearts. Nonetheless, they only have a very minute fear of G-d in their hearts, i.e. they may cheat or steal when engaging in business matters or they may swear falsely or speak gossip or use foul language and the like. This is because they lack fear of G-d. This is because this type of fear of G-d is called “fear of His exaltedness” and comes specifically through the toil of the heart and mind, until a person becomes aroused with fear of G-d. Therefore, how can there be any great degree of fear of G-d in a person who lacks in the service of the heart during prayer. It is only because of the aspect of natural faith in G-d in his soul that he has any fear of G-d at all, and then, only in a very general manner, in that that he does not rebel against G-d. He fears to rebel against G-d, at least to transgress His will openly, in public.
This is the opposite of the aspect of “casting off the Heavenly yoke” mentioned earlier, in which he does not take anything into consideration. This type of fear is therefore included in “the fear of sin which precedes his wisdom” so that “his wisdom is everlasting”. (In contrast, if a person lacks even this, yet proceeds with the service of the heart and mind, it cannot endure the test of time.) This is as stated, “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom”. This refers to fear of sin. The continuation of the statement is, “If there is no wisdom there is no fear”. This refers to the fear of G-d. This will suffice for those of understanding.
(However, there can never be fear of G-d without fear of sin, for certainly, included in two hundred is one hundred. Nonetheless, we see that such is not the case, and that the two are not commensurate to each other. In other words, we actually do find people who have fear of G-d, in that they are aroused with awe and fear during their prayers, and that they are fit and proper at all times, and yet, they do not have a great degree of fear of sin, to the point that sometimes they may become frivolous and may come to casting off the Heavenly yoke in several negative matters.
Now, although these may not be severe transgressions such as profaning the Shabbat or the like, nonetheless, they will fall to lust after money, which may bring them to dishonesty in business matters, such as cheating or deceiving, so that their hands are are not completely pure.
Likewise, in all other matters between himself and his Maker, a person may be lacking in positive action and could be full of negative thoughts, having all manner of nasty emotions such as arrogance, coarseness of spirit, anger etc, not budging from them even to a hair’s breadth. Likewise, he may become miserly, and not give charity or do acts of loving kindness. He may become cruel, lacking mercy or have an evil eye, constantly being jealous of others or the like. He may also fall to merriment and jesting, and may even commingle with Idolaters, [G-d forbid] etc.
Over and above lusts for permissible things, such as eating permissible food and engaging in permitted sexual relations, he may fall to greatly desiring honor, or all manner of other worldly pleasures, and he will not restrain himself from any of them.
Now, although he guards himself from all evil and forbidden matters that are explicitly forbidden by the Torah, because of his fear of G-d and fear of sin, however, many times it is not commensurate to the arousal of fear of G-d in his heart. At first glance, this is very astonishing. This is because we must say that a person such as this is greatly lacking in his fear of sin, in all matters, and that he is not at all within the category of one who fears G-d, as the verse clearly states, “He shall fear G-d… and he shall fulfill His commandments”, from which it is understood that these two matters are interdependent.
Furthermore, although the fulfillment of the commandments is dependant on the love of G-d, because love of G-d is the motivating source of the fulfillment of the two hundred and forty eight positive commandments, and the fear of G-d is the motivating source for abstaining from transgressing the three hundred and sixty five negative commandments, and as stated, “to love G-d and to serve him” through the positive commandments which depend on love of G-d, it nonetheless states, “What does the L-rd your G-d request of you, but to fear the L-rd your G-d etc”. This is because the fear of G-d actually includes all the commandments, since even the positive commandments are the decrees of the King, which are part and parcel of the acceptance of the Heavenly yoke, specifically.
However, one could say that because such a person’s fear of sin is not commensurate to his fear of G-d, therefore, his arousal of fear of G-d during prayer, literally, a be considered to be a deception in his soul. This is because, as is known, the arousal of love and fear during prayer is drawn from the Koach Mah – the power of “what” (i.e. sublimation) which is called the Chochmah (wisdom) of the Divine soul. In other words, it comes about as a result the power of the G-dly soul, which is in an aspect of an essential G-dly arousal. This is why each person, according to the source of his soul, becomes aroused in his heart with G-dly fear [through contemplation, as explained in Kuntrus HaHitpaalut]. This is as stated “G-d examines the hearts”.
This arousal of fear of G-d in the heart, literally, is an arousal of fear in the physical heart, which is brought about by the recognition of the greatness Creator who is the source of everything etc., through Hitbonenut - contemplation. Through this contemplation a fear falls upon his heart, which is literally called the fear of G-d. This comes about in a felt way in one’s heart of flesh, as stated, “O’ L-rd, I heard your report and was afraid”. [Hearing refers to the aspect of the comprehension of Binah. In other words, through the above contemplation in the way of comprehension, one arouses the fear of G-d in his heart.] If this is the case, then how could it be that we do not necessarily find a fear of sin appropriate to this level in such a person, i.e. a fear of sin commensurate to the fear of G-d within him?
Each and every person can find these two literally opposite poles in his soul each day. In other words, a person could arouse his fear and love of G-d during prayer or any other time as he wishes. However, after a short while, he can find himself to be completely empty of any fear of sin. Actually, this arousal does not seem to make any difference in [helping him] stand up against all the evil emotions of his heart, such as anger, haughtiness, stinginess, or cruelness etc. Certainly, it does not seem to affect him enough to desist from casting off the Heavenly yoke, with extraneous lewd thoughts.
(This is the case all the more so, specifically in our orphaned generation, in which we clearly see that every person is lacking greatly in fear of sin. Anyone who has eyes in his head can clearly see this in both young and old alike. They stumble in every possible manner, which ultimately results from casting off the Heavenly yoke, because of frivolity and not taking anything seriously, as explained before. Nonetheless, they regard themselves as having fear of G-d, engaging in the service of the mind and heart, whenever they find the time for it.
Actually, they are correct, since the fear of Heaven, in Torah, Mitzvot, charity, prayer and repentance of the heart etc, may be found in each and every Jew according to his capabilities, as stated, “Your nation are all righteous etc”. (This excludes those who are completely empty. Such people are called the sinners of Israel. Nonetheless, they too “are filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate is filled with seeds etc”.)
Now, all of the above, each person according to his capabilities, may only to be found at intermittent, specific times, such as during prayer, repentance, Torah study or Mitzvot observance etc. However, usually, most people pursue all manners of vanities and emptiness of this lowly world, each person according to his path. “They swagger and sway like a drunkard”, but not from wine, “and all of their wisdom” and fear, “becomes swallowed up”. In other words, all the good [which they may have] is swallowed up by evil, similar to the good fat cows which were swallowed by the emaciated bad cows [in pharaoh’s dream]. Even after the emaciated bad cows swallowed the fat good cows, nonetheless, they remain emaciated and bad in appearance, just as they had been to begin with. Through all the above, we may understand the meaning of the statement, “A time when man will rule over man, to do evil unto him”, which is the primary matter of the exile of the Shechinah-G-d’s Divine prescence, as will soon be explained. This will suffice for those of understanding.