"If a soul shall sin [through ignorance]." (Lev. 4:2) Rabbi Yosi returned to his discourse expounding on this with the verse: "Before the day cools and the shadows flee" (Song of Songs 2:17) This is advice to the soul to beware of sinning and return in repentance to be cleansed "before the day [the days of his life in this world] cools [end]". Then that harsh day [the personal day of judgment when a person dies] will come, when the King will demand to execute judgment when the soul leaves this world.

"And the shadows flee". It is a secret among the colleagues, who say that when a man's time comes to leave this world, the man's shadow leaves him. Hence, it says, "Before the day cools," before the day passes leaving this world "and the shadows
(in Hebrew,' tzelalim') flee away," as the image (in Hebrew, 'tzelem') departs to return before its Master.

Rabbi Elazar said, Man has two images
(in Hebrew, 'tzelamim') when he is alive, one big and the other small, as it written "shadows (in Hebrew, 'tzelalim')" two. [The big tzelem is yesod and the small tzelem is malchut] When they are together, man is alive. It is therefore written, "And the shadows flee away." [30 days before one dies his shadow is removed from him. (Zohar Vayechi 227a)]

This is why a person should examine their actions, and confess and rectify them in the eyes of their Master, for G‑d is called merciful and gracious and accepts them who return to Him.

This continues "until the day cools and the shadows flee away." When these shadows depart from him and he is put in chains
[i.e. he is confined to his bed with an illness] it is considered repentance as well but not as good as the repentance he does when he is healthy and full of life. King Solomon declares, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come..." (Eccl. 12:1) [The evil days are the days of one's old age, when a person’s passions have cooled and his repentance is therefore not so meaningful (Shabbat 151B)]

"Before the day cools" means that a man should improve his deeds
[before his death], for when his time comes to depart from the world, G‑d wonders at him and says, "If a soul shall sin and hear the voice of swearing." (Lev. 5:1) I have sworn an oath in My Name that he will not be false to Me, and warned him when he descended into the world. "And he is a witness" for several times I admonished him to keep My commandments.

Hence, since a man is a witness when he returns before the King, "whether he has seen or known of it"; "whether he has seen" the sins he committed and looked at them, "or known," clearly he transgressed his Master's command; "if he does not utter" and confess before his Master, when he departs from the world, "he shall bear his iniquity". If he is carrying his iniquity, how will an opening be opened to him
[in the Garden of Eden] and how shall he stand up before his Master?! It is therefore written, "If a soul shall sin?" (G‑d is, as it were, "amazed" that this soul didn’t repent, casting off the burden of its sins before coming before Him.)

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

Remember the parable of the ant and the grasshopper? All during the hazy crazy lazy days of summer, the grasshopper had a blast, partying, then lounging around. His buddy the ant never stopped working, gathering food, storing it, making his shelters, etc. Then comes the cold weather. The ant was all set for the winter, but the grasshopper, alas, was ill prepared and perished. So too with teshuvah: don't wait until the 10 days of Return between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—return the day before you die! When is that day, you might ask? The answer is in the question. While we are strong and still passionate is the time to channel these desires toward Holy pursuits: learn Torah, do mitzvot, engage in acts of lovingkindness. These are tried and true methods to stem any harsh/stern decree.

If you could heal one blemish, to redirect just one of your arrows that miss the mark, what would that be? What would that healing look like?

How would you be different? How would the world be different? How would your relationship with G‑d be different?

With this vision firmly implanted before you, now take that one small step to put you in the direction where you'd like to go. Congratulations! We knew you could do it all along!

Your voyage of 1000 miles has just begun with this one step, and G‑d desires the heart. May it be the will of the Supernal Guide that all your paths are pleasant and peaceful.

What does the above mean concerning your teshuva, and why is it being revealed to you right now?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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