Come and see, "but he went perversely in the way of his heart," followed by, "I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and bestow comforts on him and on his mourners." (Isaiah 57:17-18) "But he went perversely" - though the wicked do what they do willfully and follow the way of their heart, and others admonish them but they do not want to listen to them. However when they turn from their ways and take the good path of repentance, the healing remedy is already prepared for them.

We should observe now whether the verse refers to the living or the dead, for the beginning of the verse is not as its ending, nor the ending the beginning. The first part of the verse points at the living, yet the latter part points to the dead, the verse speaks of living man, and it is thus: "he went perversely in the way of his heart," because the Evil Inclination within him is strong and gains power. Hence "he went perversely," and does not care to repent.

G‑d sees his ways, that he walks in evil to no use. He says, I need to hold his hand
[to help him to teshuvah], as written, "I have seen his ways" walking in the darkness; I wish to give him healing, as written, "and will heal him." G‑d brings into his heart the path of repentance and healing for his soul. "I will lead him also" - what does this mean? [Rashi says: 've'anchehu', meaning "I will lead him (in the way of healing)". Alternatively, 've'anchehu' is an expression of rest and tranquility.] It resembles the words, "go, lead the people," (Ex. 32:34) and G‑d leads him in the true path as one holding someone's hand, leading him out of darkness.

"And bestow comforts on him and on his mourners": it seems as if he is dead, assuredly he is dead; even though he is alive, since he is wicked, he is considered dead. What is the meaning of, "and bestow comforts on him and on his mourners"? G‑d acts kindly with people. Ever since one's thirteenth birthday, He gives two guardian angels to be with him, and they guard him, one to his right and one to his left
. [As it says, "For His angels are commanded to guard you upon your ways." (Ps. 91)]

When man walks the right path, they
(the angels) rejoice in him and uphold him with joy, announcing before him saying, Give honor to the image of the King. But when he treads the crooked path, they mourn for him and leave him. G‑d holds him and leads him in the right way, it is written, "and bestow comforts on him and on his mourners." First I will "bestow comforts on him," for he regrets all that he did formerly and what he has done now and repents. Then, "on his mourners," who are the angels that mourned him when they departed from him. Now that they have returned there are consolations (in Hebrew, 'nichumim') in every aspect.

Now he is surely alive, he is living in every respect.
[He is alive in this world, and he is righteous, called 'living', holding to the Tree of Life, Zeir Anpin.] Since he is connected to the Tree of Life, he is called a penitent, for the Congregation of Israel, is also called penitence [for they connect to Zeir Anpin, the husband to malchut]. And he is called a repentant, and the ancient sages called him Ba'al teshuva/man of repentance literally[for he draws the flow of blessing from Zeir Anpin to malchut, as a husband gives flow to his wife]. Therefore, even the wholly righteous cannot dwell where the penitents do.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Why did the Ari and Chida include this section? What do they want us to learn?

Guess what? YOU ARE NOT ALONE, EVER. Since the days of your Bar or Bat (aka Bas) Mitzvah, you've been keeping pretty awesome company. That guardian angels are always with you, on your right and on your left.

We have friends in high places. If we do the right thing, they applaud us. But if we don't, well, that's a different story. They perhaps are the "watcher angels" mentioned in the Book of Daniel. They know when you are sleeping, they know when you're awake, they know if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake/for its own sake!

We will explore in much greater detail this matter of what a Ba'al Teshuvah means, how if one returns to the straight path after taking spiritually deadening detours, they can actually ascend higher than those who are always in the right in all their actions, words, and thoughts.

Let us accept this as the Carrot as a motivating force in our ascent with Moses who went to the top of Mt Sinai for his 3rd and final time on the 1st of Elul, when the 40 days of Teshuva really starts in full force.

What does the above mean for your Teshuvah/return, and why is it revealed to you right now?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.