The Healing of Body and Soul

Kabbalah and Healing: The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 18 – Repentance and Return to God

Our sages teach us that "great is repentance, for it brings healing to the world."

In the previous chapter, we saw that the apex of prayer to God is to reach a state of inner silence, one's eyes turned upward to God and His impending salvation (which is "as the batting of an eye"), and one’s heart full of joy ("joyful in suffering"). Here, the soul reaches the level of the supernal crown, keter elyon.

Later we will explain that this level is alluded to in the phrase "for I am God who heals you," whose initials spell Arich (literally, "the long, extended face," symbolizing infinite patience), an appellation for keter elyon, the source of healing (arukah, from the word arich).

The apex of prayer is the origin of repentance (teshuvah–"return" to God). Repentance itself is the healing power of the soul. All illness and disease derive from a spiritual state of "lack" or "emptiness." In Kabbalah, the word "sick" (choleh), whose numerical value is 49, indicates that the sick person lacks the fiftieth gate of understanding. Thus, "to heal" is "to fill" or "to complete" one's consciousness with the fiftieth gate of understanding.

The power in the soul to fill all states of spiritual and physical emptiness must derive from a place of consummate "satiation," a place in the soul where all (one needs) is present, nothing lacks. This is the level of keter elyon, which, upon entering the consciousness is known as the fiftieth gate of understanding. The soul's conscious aspiration to reach this level is the spiritual service of teshuvah.

The truly understanding heart is the heart that knows and desires to return to God, and thereby to be healed. In the words of Isaiah:

And his heart shall understand,
and he shall return and be healed.



In Kabbalah and Chassidut we are taught that there are four levels of spiritual lack. Each lack is the result of the soul's having blemished one of the four letters of the Name Havayah. Through sincere teshuvah, one draws down healing light and energy from keter elyon to fill all of the lacks, to rectify all of the blemishes.

The highest lack of the soul is the lack of one's consciousness being full of the light of the mysteries of the Torah, that light which resolves all of the conflicts of life, which answers all of life's existential questions: why are we here, where are we going, why has Mashiach not yet arrived.

Paradoxically, here, the very concern or "worry" with regard to life's existential questions is itself teshuvah ("return" to God) and makes one a vessel to receive the light of the mysteries of the Torah. (Here, more so than with regard to the following levels of spiritual lack, "[the very] knowledge of the disease is [itself] half the cure"–"half" in the sense of serving as a vessel to receive the cure.) In the words of our sages:

The mysteries of the Torah are bestowed only to one whose heart worries within him.



This level of lack corresponds to the yud of the Name Havayah, the level of Divine wisdom and insight into the mysteries of the Torah. Here, one is not actually "sick" but only "concerned" or "anxious." (The yud of Havayah corresponds to the world of Atzilut, never "sick," but continuously concerned and longing to manifest all of its Divine potential to reveal God’s infinite light and the mysteries of the Torah to all of reality.) Actual sickness begins at the second level of lack.

The highest spiritual state referred to in the Torah as being "sick" is "lovesickness." This is the state described in the Song of Songs:

Support me with cups of wine;

Revive me with apples,

For I am lovesick.



To be lovesick is the longing to return to and become one with one's beloved, from whom one has become estranged. This is the experience of spiritual exile, the source of disease, as will be explained.

Here, it is the estranged "I"–the "I" that longs to be together with "You"–who is sick. This state of sickness reflects the spiritual blemish of binah, corresponding to the first hei of the Name Havayah. It is here in particular that the sick person is he who lacks the fiftieth gate of understanding (binah), associated in Kabbalah with the consummate experience of love described in the Song of Songs:

How beautiful and pleasant are you, O love of delights!



The first two levels of lack correspond to the first two letters of God's Name Havayah (the yud and the first hei), which are referred to in Kabbalah as "the concealed things [that] belong to God, our God." Here, ever conscious of Divinity, one lacks Divine revelation. In contrast, the next two levels of lack, which correspond to the two final letters of God's Name Havayah(the vav and the final hei)–referred to in Kabbalah as "the revealed things [that] belong to us and our children"–are states of lack of Divine consciousness itself. As will now be explained, to the extent that one longs for worldly pleasures, so does one lose Divine consciousness.

On the physical plane (the two final letters of God’s Name Havayah are relatively physical, in contrast to the first two letters, which are relatively spiritual), there are two states of illness or disease; in the words of our sages (terms pertinent to many practical laws of the Torah): "a sick person who is not in mortal danger" and "a sick person who is in mortal danger." These two states on the physical plane allude to their spiritual or moral counterparts:

"A sick person who is not in mortal danger" is one who longs for worldly pleasures that, in principle, are permissible according to the Torah. Although the Torah does not forbid one to partake of these pleasures, the element of lust entailed in their conscious pursuit distances one’s mind and heart from God. God wants us, His children, to partake of all of the pleasures He has created for us in His world (within the parameters defined by His Torah), but wants us to always retain full consciousness of His presence in all and experience (and express) heartfelt gratitude to Him for His benevolence. Physical lust draws one's soul down and away from God. In particular, one blemishes the level of the emotions of his heart (the six midotfrom chesed to yesod), which corresponds to the vav of the Name Havayah.

"A sick person who is in mortal danger" is one who longs for worldly pleasures forbidden by the Torah. The commandments of the Torah are as the prescription of a doctor. That which the Torah forbids is mortally dangerous for the soul and the body. Mortal danger is at the level of malchut ("kingdom"; of kings it is said, "and he reigned and he died"), which corresponds to the final hei of the Name Havayah, of which is said: "her feet descend unto death."

Through teshuvah, one fills all the lacks and rectifies all the blemishes of the four letters of the Name Havayah. One draws down light and healing power from Arich, the supernal crown. As we return to God (to "heal," so to speak, the blemishes that we have caused in His holy Name), so does He return to us (to heal all of our spiritual and physical illnesses).

In summary:

The NameHavayah







קוצו של י

upper tip of yud


keter elyon

“for I am God who heals you”

infinite patience







lack of Divine insight

existential anxiety








feeling of estrangement from God





the six midot

“a sick person who is not in mortal danger”

permissible lusts







“a sick person who is in mortal danger”

forbidden lusts

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