THE GATE OF RETURN
It must now be understood that both within the aspect of fear of sin and in the aspect of fear of G-d, there are two types of fears. The first comes because of the strength of a person’s service, and the toil of his soul during prayer, and during all other propitious times. In other words, through contemplation and recognition of his Creator he causes his heart be a fit vessel for the arousal of fear in his heart and mind, according to his capacity. He accustoms himself to such contemplation with constant diligence and zeal, until the Heavenly yoke becomes engraved upon his heart, with the two above mentioned, types of fear. The first is the fear of sin, i.e. that he fears to rebel against his Master through any transgression or sin, even a lenient transgression of the words of our Sages, as known. The second is the fear of G-d, which is the contemplation into the greatness of the Creator. When he becomes aroused with an intellectual love and fear, it will be commensurate to his comprehension. This type of fear is called, “the awe and fear of His exaltedness”, and each person may acquire it, each person according to his capabilities and level. However, it is not equal at all times, for, certainly, a person goes through many changes from moment to moment.
For example, when a person is busily involved with his personal dealings or when the yoke of livelihood is increased upon him, then his mind and heart may become confused. This is even more true during times of hardship, in which case, for whatever reason, a person may become so confused to the point that “his heart is no longer with him” to even [be able to] think about matters of love and fear of G-d. Even if he does recall the fear of G-d, it will be far from him, because of his short spiritedness and the heavy and burdensome labor, which, literally, embitters his life. In such a case, certainly, with the passage of time he will fall [from his spiritual station] until, slowly but surely, even the fear of sin may be uprooted from his heart, and he will certainly lack the fear of G-d, which comes about as a result of comprehension.
Although he has not yet within the category of casting off the Heavenly yoke, nonetheless, all of the toil of his service to implant the fear of sin in his heart, has been lost completely. He becomes like one who has never tasted the fear of G-d. In this manner [he descends from level to level] until his heart is empty of all fear of Heaven [G-d forbid]. This is considered to be spiritual death [G-d forbid], in which there is no G-dly life or light whatsoever. He becomes like a piece of rotting wood or like an inanimate object, like one who by his very nature is completely empty [of vitality], like a dry wood, or like a ruined field where it is futile to plant seeds, for they will not take hold and grow.
Now, if any impression of the fear does remains upon his heart, then possibly at a propitious time, he may be aroused from above to repent, and this will inspire him to act upon it, for “The spirit of the Lord drives forth in him”. He will then awaken from his slumber, to return to G-d with the service of the heart, to arouse love and fear in his heart during prayer at times. Certainly he will also strengthen his heart regarding fear of sin and to always accept the Heavenly yoke upon himself. He will not stray, neither to the right nor to the left, and the strength of Divine light and life will be with him.
However, if at least a trace impression no longer remains in him, then no G-dly spirit will affect him, to arouse his soul. This will be the case even when it is a propitious time above, such as during the ten days of repentance [between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur], as stated, “Seek HaShem when He is to be found”, such as at midnight [during the time of Tikkun Chatzot] or on Shabbat and Holidays etc. During such times, all souls ascend, but he will never ascend. There is only a complete descent, which comes about because of his preoccupation with livelihood or the fact that he his going through difficult times of hardships, as mentioned above. (In such a case his heart may become broken and humbled to return with a lower level of Teshuvah etc.) All this comes about because he draws himself to involving his heart and soul to their depths in matters that create a separation and a barrier between him and his Creator. An example of such a prohibition would be theft, adultery, murder or transgressing the Shabbat etc.
In truth though, this can be caused even by something which is not actually forbidden, but by anything which causes his soul to become completely invested in physicality. (Because, in truth, even when a person involves himself in business with the entire depth of his heart and mind, in that he is willing to sacrifice his life for even the smallest amount of money, such as the worth of a perutah), then his entire soul becomes involved in it, and nothing is left of the service of G-d. Nonetheless, a remedy may be found for him during auspicious times above, as mentioned before, on condition that he has not cheated or stolen in his transactions, and if he has had compassion for the poor etc. Likewise, in regard to lusts such as permissible sexual relations, his soul is not completely destroyed if he has not fallen to thoughts of sin to such as point that he has brought impurity upon himself through nocturnal emissions or through emitting wasteful seed purposely.
Likewise, in regard to all the pleasures of this world, such as all types of delicacies and expensive clothes which inflate his ego and cause his heart to be uplifted, he is still capable of salvaging himself from this fall state, through giving charity and doing acts of kindness to the poor, and favors to others. However, if this is not the case, and instead he follows the whims of his heart, totally involving himself in gratifying his own lust for pleasures, like a glutton or a drunkard, and he uplifts his heart in arrogance, and ignores the plight of the poor, to help them, then certainly there is no fear before his eyes whatsoever, not even a trace impression of it. (This is as stated, “But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked; you have grown fat, you have become coarse etc”. Similarly [the Talmud states] that, “the wine [or pleasures] of Progita [and the waters of Diomeset] deprived Israel of the Ten Tribes”. [It is explained that the sin which precipitated their exile was excessive involvement in material pleasures, signified by the wine of Progita etc.]) Such a person dominates others with arrogance and afflicts the poor, uplifting himself over everyone and everything. Such a person is called, “Bad to G-d, and bad to the creatures”, for certainly he is like a completely evil person, filled with grave transgressions. There is no hope for his soul at all.
This is as stated, “You have grown fat, you have become coarse” as in, “It shall come to pass when I bring you into the land” there will be “houses filled with goodness” but “guard yourself, lest you forget the L-rd”. For, even if a person has not actually cheated or stolen at all, however, because his heart becomes uplifted and arrogant because of the abundant goodness, it is possible to forget G-d completely, “and become fat”. He will then come even to the point of the sin of avodah zarah – idol worship, for such is the way of things. When, because of his uplifted heart, there is a withdrawal of the Holy light of the Heavenly yoke (because of his preoccupation with worldly pleasures), automatically his heart will stray after vanities.
Nonetheless, it is understood that affliction in matters of income, health or children are for his good, since that is the opposite of a “house filled with goodness”, and it breaks the arrogant heart of all its arrogance and merriment, and causes him to return to G-d. (This is in similar to what was mentioned before about Menasheh, who returned to G-d as a result of being afflicted.) Now, all of the above only applies to a person who has fallen from the levels of fear of G-d and fear of sin, which were [previously] implanted in his heart as a result of his toil [in contemplation].
However, the second level of the two types of fear mentioned above is like a natural fear of G-d and fear of sin, which is embedded in the soul of each and every Jew, and never undergoes change. This is clearly understood from the fact that all Jews who are full of evil and frivolity, and have transgressed all the sins in the world, nonetheless as soon as such a Jew is told to reject his faith, he will die rather than transgress this (G-d forbid). He will be willing to give up his life for the sake of Heaven, no less than a Jew who has always been completely upright and pure in his service to G-d. This is because the very essence of the Jewish soul is connected and bound to G-d. He will, therefore, naturally be willing to give up his life, rather than completely separating himself from G-d.
Likewise, we see that there is a natural fear of sin in every Jew, each person according to his level. It is the very nature of their souls not to purposely transgress grave sins. We even see this in six or seven year old children, that if they would be told to transgress Shabbat observance or to eat non-kosher food, they would risk their lives rather than transgress this. Certainly, if fourteen or fifteen year old children would be told to eat on Yom Kippur or not wear Tzitzit, by the nature of their souls they would not transgress (Excluding those who have become accustomed to frivolity from childhood.) Furthermore, this is not merely due to parental influence, since even an orphan will carefully guard his Judaism.
Actually, women are more careful in guarding their Judaism, and specifically in regard to matters of Nidah. It is as a nature to their souls. They are also more careful in other Mitzvot. For example, with regard to not profaning Shabbat or any other prohibition, they are very meticulous and careful. Furthermore, by nature, the Mitzvot are very precious to them. We even find many simple folk who are pure in their actions and much more meticulous in performing the Mitzvot than many knowledgeable Torah scholars, as known.
All this is solely because of the source of there G-dly souls, which is called “the aspect of their essential Jewishness”. (This is the aspect of the Yechidah of the soul, which literally radiates in a revealed way, specifically in their actions, (since “the beginning is bound with the end”). This, then, is the meaning of the statement, “Your nation is all righteous”, literally, in actuality. Therefore, “Every Israelite has a portion in the world to come”, and as known, this is specifically because they fulfill the commandments in actuality, because “the beginning is bound with the end”. In other words, the essential point of this nature in their G-dly souls, which is literally bound to G-dliness in an essential way, is such that although quite possibly, in the mind and heart, the G-dly light of the soul may be diminished to the point that he is completely empty of everything, nonetheless, although a Jew has sinned, he is still a Jew.
Now, in regard to this nature of the Jewish soul, [as it relates to] the action and performance of the Mitzvot, this has not undergone any change whatsoever, even over time. We clearly see that from the very first generations until the very last generations, no change has taken place. The Mitzvot we perform today are literally the very same Mitzvot they performed. However, in regard to the service of the mind and heart, or in regard to the study of Torah, each generation is different. For example, one cannot begin to compare this last generation to the generation of Moses, Joshua or Solomon, or even compare it to the generations of the Tana’im and the Amora’im following the destruction of the second Temple. Nonetheless, in regard to the strength of their commitment or their strength faith, all generations are generally equal.
This is because in the essential nature, there is no difference between the lofty souls, which are compared to the “head” and the lowly souls, which are compared to the “heels”, such as this last generation. (This is analogous to a person, in whom the purity of his essential desire and the purity of his actions are literally one and the same. Because of this, it makes no difference if his mind and heart at times radiate to greater or lesser degrees, (because his essential desire and end action remain the same).) A person who is pure in his actions may reach the same level as a person who is pure in a way of self-sacrifice for the sanctification of G-d’s Holy name, just as the greatest and most Righteous of Men. (This is evidenced by the fact that the quality of self sacrifice for the sake of G-d exists equally in all Jews, literally, from the simplest folk to the most perfectly righteous.
Furthermore, in every single generation, this is equal. This is clearly evidenced from the matter of the forced conversions that all Jews, from the smallest children to the Torah scholars, withstood. As a people, we already have been tested in every generation for the past three thousand years, starting from the time of the giving of the Torah, and the strength of Jewish faith has not faltered or changed by an iota. No matter what tests of faith, no matter what trials, tribulations and afflictions were cast upon them, their faith remained intact, and G-d saved them from their enemies, in each generation. All of this is an indicator of the source of the Jewish people, in its essence.) There is no change in this essential nature which is in the soul of each and every Jew in every generation, from the greatest to the smallest.
Now, all of the above relates to action. In this, the two above mentioned aspects, which are the fear of sin and the fear of G-d, are included. This is because it is like a nature to have fear of G-d. G-d created the Jewish souls in this manner. We find that even in the heart of a frivolous person, his heart will break and he will become humbled due to his sins. The only problem is that he is incapable of conquering the evil inclination (Yetzer HaRa) which burns within him. This is because a spirit of folly has enters him, and he temporarily becomes like an animal. This is likewise the case in regard to the fear of sin in the general population, including women and children.
This is the same the fear of G-d which the righteous have because of the nature of their souls. It is much greater than fear of G-d which comes through toil in the heart, mind and comprehension. This type of love and fear is called “natural love and fear”, which is literally like a nature in the general population of the Jewish people. Another aspect regarding this fear, which is different than the fear acquired through comprehension, is that it is eternal and everlasting, and can never be uprooted. This is because every essence is unchanging, and this is the essence of their Jewishness, which is the foundation and root of all their service of G-d. It is “this, which stood for our fathers and for us”, for, “how beautiful is our inheritance”. This is what stood up and was established in every generation, to protect the Jewish people from all prosecution, both spiritually and physically. This is as stated, “And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them.” This is because, “The heart of the fathers is towards the sons”, and this too is in an essential, natural way. This will suffice for those of understanding.