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One section of the Tanya is called Likutei Amarim. Chapter 11 of this section contains the statement “Concerning such a person, the Rabbis of blessed memory have said, “The wicked are full of remorse.”

In the Bilingual edition of the Tanya, this sentence appears on p. 45. In the paper edition (but not in the online edition) it is marked with superscript 10. The related footnote 10 says “Nedarim 9b.”

In Lessons in Tanya, this sentence appears in volume 1 on p. 166, and is marked with superscript 8. The related footnote 8 says “Nedarim 9b. (So cited in early sources, though not to be found in current editions of the Talmud).”

This latter footnote is correct, at least as to the parenthetical part. Nedarim 9b does not contain the statement that the wicked are full of remorse.

I searched at Hebrew Books for the statement that the wicked are full of remorse, and the only match I could find was the book Sadeh Tsoifim, which appears to be a commentary on the Talmud, and which contains the magic words:

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I’m not totally clear on the meaning of that remark, it being abbreviated right out of my ken.

At my shul we have a green dictionary of statements of Chazal, a dictionary which, unfortunately, I cannot describe more precisely right now. But I looked up the statement about the wicked, and the entry was almost exactly the footnote in Lessons in Tanya. It said that the statement was said to appear on Nedarim 9b in the book Shevet Mussar, but that it does not actually appear in the Talmud. Apparently, the book Shevet Mussar was written by the year 1729, the year when the author died, so (to paraphrase Dean Vernon Wormer) we know that he didn't copy from the Tanya.

Can you explain this? Are there, or were there, editions of the Talmud containing the statement? Did it appear on p. 9 of Nedarim? The Tanya was published in 1796, so (to judge from this Wikipedia article) the author might have had a printed Talmud such as the Bomberg Talmud of 1523 or the Benveniste Talmud of 1645, but probably not the Slavuta Talmud of 1795 and certainly not the Vilna Talmud of 1835. (But of course he doesn’t actually say that the statement is in the Talmud, exactly.)

Obviously we must all rely on books to tell us what the Rabbis said. But doesn't it seem strange that an author would attribute this expression to the Rabbis with no pre-18th-Century source for that attribution?

  • In answer to your closing question, unless it was a commonly repeated expression found in many seforim, like the phrase you are asking about. See for example Malbim to 1-Kings 21:4:2. Search sefaria for מלא חרטה. It’s an often repeated phrase passed down by the Rabbis from one generation to the next. – Yaacov Deane May 6 '18 at 16:30
  • The Abarbanel to Bereshit 25:29 quotes a single Sage for this phrase. I am not familiar enough with his writings to know if when he uses the phrase שזכר החכם, like Meiri, he is referring to a contemporary or a specific Sage in the generation just prior to his own. – Yaacov Deane May 6 '18 at 17:56
  • And if you are trying to learn Tanya in greater depth with sources and explanations from the Rebbes together with varying texts of Tanya over the years, you should pick up a copy of תניא בצירוף מ״מ, ליקוט פירושים, שינוי נוסחואת. That will give you what you are desiring. – Yaacov Deane May 6 '18 at 18:17
  • Regarding the abbreviations: וז״ל means וזה לשונו, and עפימ״ש means על פי מה שכתבו. The important part seems to be הרשעים מלאין חרטות, though. – DonielF May 6 '18 at 19:33
  • Sefaria counts 14 sources with the phrase רשעים מלאים חרטות, and an additional 8 if you drop רשעים (so allowing for הם מלאים or even פושעי ישראל מלאים), but still no Gemaras. – DonielF May 6 '18 at 19:38
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I think this statement is a paraphrase of the following which does appear on Nedarim 9b (translation and interpolation: R Steinsaltz)

אמר ליה רבי יונה היינו טעמא כשהן תוהין נוזרין וכשהן מטמאין ורבין עליהן ימי נזירות מתחרטין בהן ונמצאו מביאין חולין לעזרה

Rabbi Yona said to him: This is the reason: When they regret their misdeeds they become nazirites, and when they become ritually impure and the days of their naziriteship are increased, as they must become pure and then begin their terms of naziriteship again, they regret having become nazirites.

In other words, the wicked regret their misdeeds, then become nazirites, then regret it (because the term of their nazirut keeps increasing as they become ritually impure). Thus the wicked are full of remorse.


R Adin Steinsaltz has an excellent 3-volume commented edition of the Tanya. In the first volume, p. 277, he explains this statement in the following way

Such a person repeatedly sins and regrets, sing and regrets. Such regrets are a sign not of hypocrisy or self-deception but of the inner struggle between the two forces that dichotomize his inner self: his Godly and animal souls. The feelings of regret and the thoughts of repentance are not by chance or fluke but the reaction of the Godly soul to the triumphs of the animal soul. It is not arbitrary but inherently necessary that a Jew should experience remorse after he sins, because one part of his soul will never give him rest.

  • As for the main question, you're saying that it does not seem strange for Likutei Amarim to refer to the logical conclusion of the quoted snippet from N'darim because, in context, the exact person it is talking about is one who repeatedly regrets and resins, realizing they are getting deeper and deeper in, right? – WAF May 6 '18 at 17:08
  • This also follows the explanation of the Ran to Eyn Yaacov for Nedarim, ch. 1, 9:3. – Yaacov Deane May 6 '18 at 19:28
  • @WAF I think you’re all saying that the oft-repeated statement (that the rabbis say that the wicked are full of remorse) was never intended as a quotation of the gemara or any other ancient source at all; it was just a paraphrase capturing the sense of the gemara at Nedarim 9b. It just happens that this paraphrase is often introduced with the formulae (like Amru Razal) more usually used for quotations, perhaps because quotations are simply more common than paraphrases. – Chaim May 10 '18 at 11:32
  • @WAF In other words you're disagreeing with the footnote in Lessons, or with the opinion which that footnote ascribes to earlier authors? – Chaim May 10 '18 at 17:31

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