Introduction

By way of introduction to Iggeret HaTeshuvah it should be noted that the Alter Rebbe is known as1 “Master of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch.” The Rebbe once remarked that “Master of the Tanya” means that the Alter Rebbe is2 an arbiter in the esoteric dimension of the Torah, and “Master of the Shulchan Aruch” signifies that3 his halachic rulings are authoritative.

Furthermore, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe once stated in a public address4 that the four parts of Tanya correspond to the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. In this connection the Rebbe gives an explanation — both according to Chassidut and according to the revealed strata of the Torah — of the relation between the third part of Tanya, Iggeret HaTeshuvah, and the third section of the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer.

According to Chassidut the relation between the two is clarified by a statement in ch. 4 of Iggeret HaTeshuvah — that the lower and higher levels of teshuvah (which together encompass all the degrees of repentance) are respectively indicated by the lower and higher letters hei of the ineffable Name of G‑d. In terms of their spiritual personality, so to speak, these two letters are feminine: both are receptors, the higher hei (representing the level of Binah) being impregnated by Chochmah, and the lower hei (representing Malchut) being impregnated by the six emotive Sefirot. This feminine element connects Iggeret HaTeshuvah with Even HaEzer, which codifies the laws involving women.

As to the revealed plane of the Torah, we find that the Talmudic Tractate Gittin, which deals with the laws of divorce, precedes Tractate Kiddushin, which deals with the laws of marriage. In the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, Maimonides explains this order by quoting the verse,5 “When she leaves his house she may go and marry another man”; here, too, divorce precedes marriage. Historically, as well, the Midrash6 points out that the root of the word used by the Torah to say that G‑d7 banished Adam from the Garden of Eden ( ויגרש ) is the same as the root of the word for divorce ( גרושין). Accordingly, the Sages compare his state to that of “a Jewish divorcee,” who is permitted to remarry her former husband. And indeed, when G‑d later gave the Torah to the Jewish people he8 “sanctified us ( קדשנו) with His commands.” In the Holy Tongue this verb shares a common root with the word for marriage, or betrothal ( קדושין). In this connection the Alter Rebbe said above9 that G‑d’s having “sanctified us with His commands” parallels what a man declares when betrothing a wife: “You are hereby consecrated unto me.”

This dynamic — marriage in the wake of divorce — is echoed in the spiritual use of these terms. The connection to teshuvah is thus readily apparent: A “marriage” is conceivable after a state of “divorce” only when there was teshuvah in the interim. For as the Alter Rebbe stated earlier on,10 “Indeed, it is impossible for the wicked to begin to serve G‑d without first repenting for their past.”

In Scripture, too, we find repentance depicted as the reconcilement of a divorced couple, culminating in remarriage. For sin banishes the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, the Mother of all souls. In the words of the prophet,11 ובפשעיכם שלחה אמכם — “Because of your transgressions was your Mother sent away.” This is the selfsame verb that the Torah uses for divorce:12 ושלחה מביתו — “And he will send her away from his house.” And it is repentance that undoes this spiritual divorce, to the point that G‑d can ask His people the rhetorical question:13 “Where is your mother’s bill of divorce?” — for as a result of His people’s repentance, the divorce is annulled.

In the plainly manifest levels of the Torah as well, there is explicit evidence in the Gemara that repentance resembles remarriage following divorce. R. Yochanan teaches14 that repentance overrides a prohibition stated in the Torah, and cites the following verse:15 “If a man sends away his wife and she leaves him for another man, will he return to her again?.... Yet though you have strayed..., return to Me!” Thus, argues R. Yochanan, G‑d is saying here that repentance overrides the prohibition that16 “her first husband...may not remarry her” [if she married another man in the interim]. Here too, then, remarriage following divorce is a paradigm of repentance.

Thus, there is a clear correspondence between the third part of Tanya, Iggeret HaTeshuvah, and the third section of the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, which deals with the laws involving women.

Se ha enseñado en una Baraita al final [del Tratado Talmúdico] de Iomá: Hay tres tipos de expiación y el arrepentimiento [necesariamente] acompaña a cada uno de ellos. [(1)] Si [el individuo] omitió el cumplimiento de un precepto positivo y se arrepintió, es perdonado de inmediato. [(2)] Si violó un mandamiento prohibitivo y se arrepintió, su arrepentimiento queda pendiente, y Iom Kipur expía.

(Esto quiere decir que si bien en términos de cumplimiento el mandamiento positivo es [de un rango] superior, razón por la cual [su ejecución] empuja a un lado al mandamiento prohibitivo, esto se debe al hecho de que al cumplir un mandamiento positivo [la persona] atrae una iluminación y flujo del reflejo de la luz Ein Sof en los mundos superiores (3como está escrito en el Zohar: "Los 248 preceptos positivos son los 248 'órganos del Rey'") y también sobre su Alma Divina, como declaramos [en las bendiciones que preceden al cumplimiento de muchas mitzvot:] "...que nos ha santificado con Sus mandamientos [...]".

Pero en lo que se refiere al arrepentimiento — si bien [mediante el arrepentimiento] el castigo por rebelarse contra el mandato de Di-s y no cumplir la palabra del Rey es conmutado, no obstante, la iluminación falta. Tal como nuestros Sabios comentan sobre el versículo "Una torcedura que no puede ser corregida" — 'Esto se refiere a aquel que descuidó la Lectura nocturna [o matinal] del Shemá o [la plegaria vespertina o matutina]'. Porque pese a ser cuidadoso de ahora en más en cuanto a leer el Shemá mañana y noche por el resto de sus días, [demostrando de ese modo su remordimiento,] su arrepentimiento resulta inefectivo para subsanar aquello que ha omitido una vez.

Si [el hombre] viola una prohibición, puesto que [con ello] el mal se adhiere a su alma, produce [también] un defecto en su raíz y fuente suprema (3en las vestimentas de las Diez Sefirot de Asiá; como escribe Tikunéi Zohar: "Tú has diseñado vestimentas para ellas, de las cuales emergen en vuelo las almas de los hombres..."). Por eso no hay expiación para su propia alma ni tampoco en lo Alto, hasta Iom Kipur, como está escrito: "El expiará por el lugar santo a causa de las impurezas de los Hijos de Israel y a causa de sus pecados...; ante Havaiá seréis purificados". "Ante Havaiá" es enfatizado.

En consecuencia, que nadie infiera de esto, Di-s libre, indulgencia alguna en [el cumplimiento de] los mandamientos positivos, particularmente en el estudio de la Torá. Por el contrario, nuestros Sabios afirman: "Di-s ha pasado por alto [en ciertas instancias, incluso] la idolatría, [la relación sexual prohibida y el homicidio], pese a estar involucrados la [pena de] escisión —karet— y la pena capital], pero no excusó la negligencia en el estudio de la Torá").

[Continúa diciendo la Baraita: (3)] Si uno comete un pecado [castigable con la pena] de escisión o ejecución, el arrepentimiento y Iom Kipur quedan pendientes y los sufrimientos purgan (3es decir, completan la expiación; [el verbo] memarkín [usado aquí para "purgan",] denota [la etapa final, o sea,] el purgado y lavado a fin de "pulir" al alma, pues kapará ("expiación") es el término para [la etapa precedente de] limpieza, el quitado de la impureza del pecado), como fuera dicho: "Recordaré con la vara sus pecados, y con aflicciones sus iniquidades".

Hasta aquí el texto de la Baraita [con que comenzó este capítulo].