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There are four general types of teshuvah, corresponding to the four worlds..

Four Levels of Shechinah in Exile

Four Levels of Shechinah in Exile

Gate of Reincarnations: Chapter Twenty-One, Section 3

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Having said this, we will explain what it means when it says: "If a person violated a positive mitzvah [and repents], he does not move without being forgiven." (Yoma 86a) However, before explaining this, we must first return to the idea that teshuvah means 'teshuv-hei' [returning the letter hei]1 and the four divisions of teshuvah.

To begin with, sometimes the world of Asiya - which corresponds to the bottom hei - descends to the first three sefirot [upper triad] of the kelipot. This concept is called galut [of the] Shechinah.

The letters of the tetragrammaton branch into the sefirot. The final hei associates with malchut, the sefira of the Shechinah - the revelation of G‑d's Presence as King of His world.

If the sin is more serious, the person can cause Asiya to go down as far as the three middle sefirot of the kelipot, and if more severe, then as far as the three that follow. If the sin is even more serious, Asiya can descend to the 'malchut harashah' [evil kingdom], the tenth sefira of the kelipot. These are the four levels to which the Shechina/Asiya can go into exile within the kelipot.

The last defect is what gives rulership to the kingdom of the other side. Although the other lesser defects still contribute to the cause.

One may decide to go on a diet, but find himself violating it.

Often a person finds it hard to control himself. One may decide to go on a diet, but find himself violating it. This comes from the lower, subsidiary parts of the self rebelling and taking command in place of listening to the mind. The general principle is that repentance really fixes. One who repents automatically usurps the rebels and puts them in their place. He will merit to Divine honor resting upon him that no one will even question him. (Likutei Moharan 6)

Learning Torah empowers the true kingship. It strengthens the good inclination and automatically the evil kingdom falls. (Likutei Moharan 1) It is a path to re-instating the true self to its royal regal reign over the being. Therefore was the prayer enacted, thrice a day: "Restore us oh Father to Your Torah, and draw us close to Your service - and bring us (thereby) back to You in perfect repentance." (Daily Amida prayer) Rabbi Nachman emphasizes that if even the worst person would set for themselves an established time to learn Torah every day, it would bring them out of the most terrible habits and liberate them to make complete self-improvement. (Sichot HaRan)

However, someone who causes defect to Yetzira, Beriya, or Atzilut does not cause them to go down into the kelipot since the kelipot are lower than the world of Asiya. Instead, Yetzira descends to the world of Asiya, to the level of the first three sefirot, then to the middle three sefirot, and after that to the three sefirot beneath these - finally to malchut of Asiya. These are the four levels to which Yetzira can descend within Asiya. They are called the 'exile of Yetzira', since it went from a higher level of holiness to a lesser one.

They are called the 'exile of Yetzira.'

Exile is a relative state of death. (Hachinuch) One who descends from his level as if dies. (Zohar III Naso Idra Raba)

In the same manner, Beriya can descend four levels within Yetzira which is called 'galut [of] Beriya'. Atzilut can descend to Beriya, which is called 'galut [of] Atzilut'. The four categories of levels themselves that we mentioned are [all generally] called galut [of the] Shechinah.

The concept of ‘Shechinah’ is the concentrated root revelation of Divinity. It finds expression in each realm according to its parameters. It can so accordingly be conceptually in a state of exile within each realm. The ‘descent’ means either a lessening of the intensity of the concentration of Shechinah light, or complete hiding.

The principle that emerges is that there are four categories, and each contains four types - that is four worlds and correspondingly four general types of teshuvah. Within each world there are also four specific types of teshuvah. We will now explain the first one, and from it explain four others.

They all correspond to the four expansions in each world unto itself. According to what a person does, so does he draw upon himself the Divine Names. (Likutei Moharan 6, end)

Also, each world is composed of four major quadrants, which branch out from the Names: The world itself, chambers within it, angels, and souls. (Eitz Chayim)

To begin with, when the Talmud writes, "When a person transgresses a positive mitzvah and then returns [does teshuvah] etc." it is talking about if he damaged Asiya. When he repents he is immediately forgiven. For by transgressing a positive mitzvah he causes hei/malchut of Asiya to descend and separate from tiferet, making it to only descend to the first three of the kelipot.

Transgressing a positive commandment...causes a lack of light in the worlds.

‘Transgressing’ a positive commandment refers to a lack of doing something.2 This causes a lack of light in the worlds. Like someone who didn’t make lunch, leaving the family deprived of nourishment. This lack is not as bad as actually getting up and damaging something, like someone who demolishes the family’s house. The damage caused by lack is generally the least and only causes problems in the lowest of worlds.

This needs to be understood, for Nachmanides teaches that the main acquiring of perfection is through doing the positive commandments, whereas the idea behind the prohibitions is to simply protect one’s level?

Indeed both are true. When looking at what actually elevates a person, the positive commandments are primary. However, in terms of our discussion about one who violated the precepts, the damage caused by transgressing prohibitions is worse. And this itself is the reason why the whole premise behind them is protection.

One who is in a state of self-nullification...has no bounds.

One who does something, no matter how much he does, can only do what he can do - and no more. A creature of limitation can so only do so much, whereas in the aspect of passive nothingness, there are no limitations. One who is in a state of self-nullification can so relate to and draw upon limitless energies that expand to eternity - for he has no bounds.

Yet the main acquiring of completion is through the positive commandments. Guarding the prohibitions grants connection to levels of limitlessness that cannot be accessed except through negation. But actual light is drawn to the soul and the universe through getting up and fulfilling the positive precepts.

The 248 positive commandments associate with "My remembrance" and VH, the letters from which come the lower seven sefirot. The 365 prohibitions correspond to "My Name" and YH, the source of the upper sefirot. Doing mitzvot draws light to the lower sefirot and sustains the world. Refraining from doing bad attaches the soul to the higher reality.

In terms of repentance, the damage done by transgressing a negative commandment is repairable through teshuvah - just as a repair man can come and fix things. But what about the light that was not drawn down through the lacking of positive action - how can that ever be fixed?

Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains that this is idea of the Zohar’s teaching about penitents: "That they draw it [the light] with extra power." This means that they can actually ascend to draw from the Infinite being Who sends a new ray/line/thread of His Divine light into the empty vacuum. They so can fix everything.3

What comes out is that each has its own advantage. It is important to note that one can only be considered as having ‘fulfilled’ a prohibition if it comes to his hand to transgress it. If he then withstands the test, it counts to his credit as if having ‘done’ the negative command.(Talmud)

It is easy to repent and become immediately rectified.

Hence, it is easy to repent and become immediately rectified. For as is known, the first three sefirot of the kelipot can also transform to holiness. Which is the secret of what the Sages say, "The Jordan [river] also takes from this one and gives to another." (Baba Metziya 22a)

The Talmud is talking about how a river can cause one person’s property to go to another by washing it off shore and down the river. This is used as an analogy for the top three sefirot of the kelipot being brought over to the side of holiness.

Heaven causes this to happen because it is revealed above that for some reason the property really belongs to the new party. And so, relatively, it is considered to be brought out of the kelipot - the supposed ‘owner’, and transferred to holiness - the rightful owner.

Therefore he can immediately return in teshuvah and malchut can ascend to its place and rejoin tiferet. This is called teshuvah - tashuv-hei. This is the first level within Asiya.

In the parable of the Zohar, this is akin to restoring an estranged, captive wife to her husband.

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]

Footnotes
1.
The Hebrew word for repentance, teshuvah, literally means returning or restoring. In the act of teshuvah, one returns to G‑d. The Zohar explains in addition that the word 'teshuvah' can be split in two: 'teshuv' + the letter hei, which would translate as "return [the] hei", referring to a letter hei in the Divine Name.
2.
There is however the concept brought in the Talmud of an ‘isur mitzvah’ - a positive prohibition. This means that the Torah expresses the need to refrain from doing something in a manner of positivity, i.e., doing.
3.
Berachot: "A crookedness that can never be fixed’ (Eccl.). This refers to one who should have read the Shema and did not". This refers to teshuvah within the confines and parameters of the old light that is already within the empty vacuum. Although one can repair the damage done by transgressing a prohibition, in terms of the old light, one who had a chance to do a mitzvah and did not do it is left forever bereft of that light, unless he repents in a manner that can blow the whole situation away and draw from the Infinite Light new radiance to His universe.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the
G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Yitzchok bar Chaim is the pseudonym of the translator, an American-born Jerusalem scholar who has studied and taught Kabbala for many years. He may be contacted through: webmaster@kabbalaonline.org. He translated the Ari's work, "Shaar HaGilgulim;" his translation into English (but with much less extensive commentary than offered here). Information about his translation in book form may be obtained through www.thirtysevenbooks.com
Rabbi Chaim Vital c. 5303-5380 (c. 1543-1620 CE), major disciple of R. Isaac (Yitzchak) Luria, and responsible for publication of most of his works.
Rabbi Peretz Auerbach, originally from New York, has been living and learning Torah and kabbala in Jerusalem for 18 years. He teaches at Shvu Ami beit medrash, lectures in Kabbalah and chassidut at the Jerusalem Connection and Heritage House and to private groups. Rabbi Auerbach is also a talented musician. He is currently working on an all new translation of the Zohar into English with extensive commentary as well as a disc entitled "Music, Meditation and Mysticism."
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