Monday, April 15, 2013

Some thoughts on Teshuva

Remorse and Regret Rubbing Out Sin - The Alexander Rebbe taught that the primary component of Teshuva is remorse. Now true remorse does not mean simply regretting the evil actions and deeds, this is not remorse because you could argue that these deeds are cosmically insignificant and meaningless as our sages put it: why should Hashem care whether we slaughter an animal from the front or backside of its neck?!

True remorse is over the fact that you did not listen to Hashem Himself and to His commandment. Remorse over this causes you to repent and return to Hashem wholeheartedly. Then you will listen and hearken unto Hashem's voice and all that He commands. We see that true regret and remorse is for your act of rebellion against Hashem Himself.

"Charatah," the Alexander Rebbe continued, "can be translated as remorse or regret over past misdeeds. I say however, who doesn't regret past misdeeds? Rather I translate Charatah as from the same linguistic root as the verb to engrave as in the verse (Yeshaya 8:1) Man engraved, one must engrave and rub out those detestable and despicable traits within him, scratch them off and erase them until they are gone." (Chashva LeTova p36 & p38)

Teshuvas HaMishkal - Reb Yisroel the Maggid of Bahapoli explained that in previous generations there was a concept called Teshuvas HaMishkal which meant to repent and do Teshuva in equal measure corresponding to the sins and transgressions committed. He should weigh and measure the amount of pleasure and enjoyment he experienced while sinning and correspondingly inflict just as much pain and torture and afflict himself equally in order to make amends for his misdeeds. Such forms of self mortification and torture including rolling around nude in the snow and immersion in ice cold mikva baths, accepting blows and whipping and similar practices. However in our generation we have a new way to understand this concept. You should weigh and measure in your mind what mussar and what lessons you can learn from your previous misdeeds and misbehavior. See how you ran after sinful acts, how swift and quickly you carried them out and with how much energy you expanded. Whatever sinful passions, lusts and desire you chased whether it was the wanton pursuit of earning money and acquiring possessions or even to cheat, swindle and steal for a life and home of prestige, wealth and luxury; nothing held you back, neither rain, nor sleet nor snow, not cold winter or hot summer days. Or when someone angered you or wronged you, how you endlessly plotted and with hatred you went after that person to defeat and conquer him, and if you succeeded how happy and overjoyed you felt, immeasurably!

These are the types of calculations you must make and now when you repent and return to Hashem you are obligated to use all of your energy and all of your resources to serve Hashem just as much as you did to sin against Him. Serve him with just as much zeal and passion, with as much pleasure and joy, with a glad heart overflowing to the point where nothing could hold you back from serving Him, nether rain nor snow nor any barriers or obstacles that were in your way would prevent you from doing Hashem's will. Then when you study or pray or recite psalms of Tehillim and praise it should be with as much fiery passion aflame with wondrous excitement! (Ateres Yisroel Ki Seitze p162)

Why didn't you do Teshuva?! - The Dezukover once said: On High they do not ask you, what sins did you commit or why did you sin? No! They ask why did you not repent and do Teshuva!? Since you knew full well that you erred and sinned, why is it that you did not repent and do Teshuva!? If you did not even know that you sinned, that is even worse, how could you not have known that or realized?! You were a man not a beast or an animal! You should have realized your mistake and your sin and you should have repented and done Teshuva! (Imrei Noam p20)

Broken Hearts Purify the Vessel - The way Teshuva works is solely based on the amount we nullify ourselves before Hashem. If you are as a worthless and frail as a fragile earthenware pottery shard before Hashem, then when your heart breaks, this act purifies you, since the law is that earthenware vessels are purified when broken. Therefore once you nullify yourself before Hashem you sins are automatically distanced and separated from you as our sages taught (Yoma 85b) just as a the waters of the mikvah ritually purify the contaminated so does Hashem purify the Jewish people (Shem MiShmuel VaErah p59)


Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
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