Rabbi Elazar cited the verse: "Thus shall you separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness...when they defile My tabernacle that is among them." (Lev. 15:31) "Thus shall you separate/vehizartem" [is an unusual word, and therefore the Zohar interprets it to mean] like a stranger/zar who is a stranger to everyone and is not bonded with that which is not his [so too Israel must be a complete stranger to uncleanness].

Come and see: When men are defiled below
[even only slightly, by a small sin], they are defiled in every respect [even in regard to sins that he wouldn't want to trangress], as we have already learned.1 But when the unclean spirit is aroused below, a strange spirit arises; the unclean spirit below arouses another unclean spirit [of judgment]. It obtains permission to go down to the world. What kind of permission? Permission from the Divine Spirit that formerly came down and prevented the spirit of impurity from taking charge. Now, having been given permission, this spirit of holiness that was holding back the spirit of impurity is no longer there. When it leaves, stern judgment is revealed and confronts the sinners, adding judgment on top of judgment. Then two harmful spirits are in the world, one the [strange] spirit of judgment and the other spirit of impurity.

Rabbi Elazar said: Here I must say something that I have learned from my father
[Rabbi Shimon] . Come and see that we learned here regarding a plague manifesting in a house. When an impure spirit rests upon a house and G‑d wants to purify that house, He sends a plague of tzara'at [a disease (usually and incorrectly translated as "leprosy") that renders one spiritually impure] there, causing a struggle between the two that leads to the ejection of the impure spirit from the house. Although the impure spirit is gone from the house, that plague does not depart from the house until the house is shattered - stones, timbers, and all. Only then is the place purified.

Similarly, when a man is defiled and arouses the impure spirit to rest upon him
[due to his iniquities] and G‑d wants to purify the world, He arouses a spirit of stern judgment that remains in the world and rests upon that impure spirit. They fight each other until the spirit of impurity is removed from the world. That spirit of harsh judgment does not depart from the place until it is completely shattered, the limbs, the bones and everything. Only then is the world purified; the unclean spirits are removed, and the world is in a state of purity.

Therefore, we have learned that when a man wants to defile himself, he is indeed defiled. Woe to the man upon whom rests an unclean spirit that dwells with him in the world, for it is well known that G‑d desires to remove it from the world. Happy are the righteous who are completely holy and appear before the Holy King in their holiness, and upon whom a spirit of holiness rests in this world and in the World to Come.

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

Look at me, I'm in tatters! I'm a shattered shattered..." That is what we should be saying about our heart during Elul, during the 10 Days of Teshuva, during Yom Kippur. I've broken my heart. Not "I'm Fixing a Hole", rather I'm opening a G‑d-shaped hole, and thus renewing the vessel/heart for His service. For once we've got negativity in the House, we need to break it into smithereens, as they say in cartoons.

"You are where your mind is" - we are so fond of quoting Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. If we want to defile ourselves, our Free Will takes us there. If we want to improve ourselves, even just a little, we are promised a little help from our Friend. Not fixing, not burning out like we do with chametz, but humbling ourselves and thinking a little less about Mr. Myself and more about the Other. Only then is the world made a slightly cleaner place, the sticky stuff we cart around is removed a little, and everything is a bit more beautiful.

What does the above mean to you and for your teshuva, NOW?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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