The month of Elul is known for being the time of the year most favorable for t’shuva – generally known as penitence or repentance. But t’shuva is much more than feeling bad over the transgressions which we have committed. Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva is the force that makes the world go around. Here’s how he begins his penetrating and inspiring book on t’shuva, “Orot HaT’shuva.”
“For some time now, I have been struggling with an inner battle. A powerful force is impelling me to speak on the subject of t’shuva. All of my thoughts are concentrated on this. The greatest part of the Torah and life is devoted to the matter of t’shuva. All of the hopes of the individual and the community are founded upon it. T’shuva is a Divine commandment which is both the easiest, since the thought of t’shuva is considered t’shuva in itself (Kiddushin 49B), and on the other hand, it is the most difficult commandment, since its essence has not yet been fully revealed in the world and in life.”
I had the good fortune of translating selections from Rabbi Kook’s book and co-writing a commentary on the book with Rabbi David Samson, a longtime student of Rabbi Kook’s son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson is a veteran teacher at the Mercaz HaRav High School Yeshiva, and founder and director of five high schools for “youth at risk” in Israel. The commentary, which we called, The Art of T’shuva, may be one of the most important self-help books you can find, opening pathways to a new and more vibrant connection to God and to Torah, pathways which are sure to fill your life with greater light and happiness.
As Rabbi Kook writes:
“With each passing day, powered by the lofty light of t’shuva, the penitent’s feeling becomes more secure, clearer, more enlightened with the radiance of sharpened intellect, and more clarified according to the foundations of Torah. His demeanor becomes brighter, his anger subsides, the light of grace shines on him. He becomes filled with strength; his eyes are filled with a holy fire; his heart is completely immersed in springs of pleasure; holiness and purity envelop him. A boundless loves fills all of his spirit; his soul thirsts for God, and this very thirst satiates all of his being. The holy spirit rings before him like a bell, and he is informed that all of his willful transgressions, the known and the unknown, have been erased; that he has been reborn as a new being; that all of the world and all of Creation are reborn with him; that all of existence calls out in song, and that the joy of God infuses all. Great is t’shuva for it brings healing to the world, and even one individual who repents is forgiven, and the whole world is forgiven with him.”
For those of you who can’t afford the ten odd bucks it costs to order the book at Amazon, in the honor of Rabbi Kook’s yahrtzeit which falls on the 3rd of Elul, we will be serializing throughout the month, here at The Jewish Press, a condensed version of the commentary, chapter by chapter, on this blog. Once again, if you don’t find the book worthwhile, print out the pages, send them to me, and I’ll eat them.
For avid lovers of Hashem who can’t get enough t’shuva, you will find a mini-library on t’shuva on our www.jewishsexuality.com website including the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and the Baal HaTanya’s famous “Letter of T’shuva,” condensed and explained. You’ll also find Rebbe Nachman’s “Secret of Elul” and an online translation of the famous “Tikun HaKlali” confession. Sexual transgressions, knows as Pigam HaBrit, are among the most serious sins, and the website has dozens of articles, written by our holiest Sages, on ways to rectify past errors and rise up to a healthier, holier path. For people who are prone to Internet temptations, the site offers a free download pamphlet on Shmirat HaBrit that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner highly recommends to every teenager, parent, teacher and rabbi.