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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 13 Tamuz
This is so even with regard to transgressions - those punishable by excision or by execution - whose atonement becomes complete through suffering.
Even in these instances the suffering is not intended to be self- inflicted through fasting, but is brought on from Above].
However, all this refers to atonement and forgiveness of the sin - [the offender] is pardoned completely for having violated the command of the King once he has repented fully.
[Atonement and forgiveness thus do not require fasting. If the individual repents fully]:
No charge nor semblance of an accusation is mentioned against him on the day of judgment so that he should be punished for his sin, G-d forbid, in the World to Come; in his trial there he is completely exonerated.
Nonetheless, in order that he should be acceptable before G-d, as beloved of Him as before the sin, so that his Creator might derive delight from his service, - [in past times] he would bring an olah offering,  [in addition to his repentance], even for [transgressing] an ordinary positive commandment that involves no excision or execution.
In this spirit our Sages in Torat Kohanim interpret the verse,  "It shall be acceptable for him," - that the olah offering causes a person who violated a positive command to become acceptable to G-d].
Thus too we find in the Talmud, in the first chapter of Zevachim,  that the olah offering atones for [the violation of] positive commandments; it is a "gift" [that is offered] after one has repented and been pardoned his punishment.
This is like the case of a man who displeased his king, appeased him through intercessors, and was forgiven by him; still he will send a gift, so that the king might consent that he appear again before his sovereign.
[The olah offering was similarly brought as a gift to G-d after the offender had repented and had been granted a pardon, in order that he once again find favor in His eyes, and be beloved by Him as before the sin].
 (The expression "atones" [quoted from the Talmud], and in the verse,  "It shall be acceptable for him, to atone for him," does not refer to the soul's atonement [for the sin, for this is accomplished through repentance], but rather (so to speak) his restoration before G-d, so that he will bring his Creator gratification; [no vestige of the sin will remain, and the former offender will be beloved of G-d as before], as the Talmud teaches there - [that once the person has been pardoned, then comes the gift of the olah offering], and as the verse states:  "It shall be perfect, so that it be acceptable.")
Today, when we have no offerings to call forth G-d's pleasure, fasting replaces the offering. As the Talmud says, that the prayer of one who is fasting is:  "May my loss of fat and blood brought about through fasting be regarded as though I had offered it to You [as a sacrifice on the altar]."
[The purpose of fasting, then, is that one become acceptable to G-d just as before the sin].
This is why there are many cases of Talmudic Sages, who for some trivial fault undertook a great many fasts.
R. Elazar ben Azariah, for example, contended that a cow may go out wearing its strap between its horns on Shabbat, while his colleagues prohibited it. Once a neighbor's cow went out with its strap and R. Elazar did not protest. Because he did not support his colleagues' view, he fasted so long that his teeth were blackened. 
So, too, R. Joshua once remarked:  "I am ashamed of your words, Beit Shammai." His teeth, too, turned black through fasting.
Likewise Rav Huna, because his tefillin strap once turned over, undertook forty fasts. 
Indeed, there are many such instances [recorded about our Sages.
These fasts were not undertaken for the sake of repentance, nor as self-inflicted suffering in order to complete a process of atonement; these were not sins of the kind that required this.
The sole purpose of these fasts was to restore the bonds of love between the former sinner and his Maker].
On this basis, [that fasting substitutes for an offering, and as such has a place even when an individual does not need to undergo suffering in order to attain complete atonement], the AriZal taught his disciples, according to the principles of the Kabbalah, the number of fasts to be undertaken for many transgressions, even though they entail neither excision, nor death by divine agency - [in which case suffering would be necessary].
Examples: for anger - 151 fasts;
Even for transgressing a Rabbinic prohibition, such as drinking the wine of non-Jews - seventy-three fasts;
Likewise for neglecting a positive Rabbinic enactment, such as prayer  - sixty-one fasts.
As a general rule, the mystery of fasting is wondrously effective for the revelation of the Supreme Will, similar to an offering, of which it is said,  "An aroma pleasing to G-d."
Thus in Isaiah  we find, "Do you call this a fast and a day desirable to G-d?!"
Obviously, an acceptable fast is a "desirable day."
- (Back to text) Vayikra 1:3.
- (Back to text) Loc. cit., v. 4.
- (Back to text) 7b.
- (Back to text) Parentheses appear in the original.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 22:21.
- (Back to text) Cf. Berachot 17a.
- (Back to text) Yerushalmi, Beitzah 2:8.
- (Back to text) Chagigah 22b.
- (Back to text) Moed Katan 25a.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes that we cannot adduce from here that the Alter Rebbe is of the opinion that the obligation of prayer is of Rabbinic origin. (This would be consonant with the statement in his Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Tefillah, Section 106; it is also implied in the beginning of chapter 38 of Tanya, and in Likkutei Torah, Parshat Balak 70c. However, in the famous letter of the Alter Rebbe that appears in Beit Rebbe, Part I, p. 20a, he states outright that prayer is of Torah origin. In Mishnat Yoel this whole issue is debated and explained. In any event, no proof can be derived from the above text.) For according to all opinions the specific times for prayer are of Rabbinic origin; when one neglects this a spect of prayer, then the AriZal prescribes sixty-one fasts.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 1:13.
- (Back to text) 58:5.
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