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The true way to do teshuva is not just by turning away from and not doing aveiros, it must also include a turning towards mitzvos and acknowledging what we have done wrong. This is true when we are talking about the way we deal with Hashem and with other people – especially our family and friends.

 

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Sin As A Physical Turning Away

  1. Apology letter to Simcha

I wanted to write you this letter of apology. I know it has been months since I last saw you but something I said to you truly bothers me. Actually, it was what I didn’t say that bothers me.

The last day of school, when I knew you were going to be moving away, far away, I saw you in the corner crying near your locker, with all of your books scattered about the floor. I turned and walked the other way. I didn’t go over to help you or comfort you. I should have. For that I am sorry. I also should have told you how much your friendship meant to me; all the great times we shared. I am sorry about that. I should have done things differently.

 

Questions To Make You Think:

1. Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?

2. Have you neglected a friend’s needs this past year?

3. Have you shared with him or her that you are sorry?

 

B. Apology post it… (anonymous)

Hi. You don’t know me, but we share the same desk. I know that I can be messy at times. So I wanted to say I am sorry for leaving candy wrappers, old tests, and other stuff inside the desk. I will try harder to keep our shared space neat and tidy. I truly hope you can forgive me.  

Signed,
Desk-sharer

 

Questions To Make You Think:

1. Is a written apology to a stranger considered a true apology?

2. Can you think of another way to make the person feel that you took responsibility for your actions?

Taking responsibility for an embarrassing action is definitely a huge step toward teshuva.

The next step is verbally admitting it to the person and then asking forgiveness from Hashem.

C. It’s true that we have many things we can ask forgiveness for when we say Al Cheyt on Yom Kippur: speaking back to a parent, wasting food, yelling at a sibling. Many things will pop up in our mind while we pound on our chest in remorse and regret.

Sin is a turning away from something. When we hurt someone’s feelings we turn away from him or her. When we make fun of someone, we tend not to look right at him or her. These are physical signs that we have not given of ourselves fully. We must realize that just as we may have said the wrong thing, our bodies also did the wrong thing. They physically turned away from a friend, a family member, or a classmate.

 

Questions To Make You Think

1. How do we turn back toward those we turned away from?

2. Is it hard to return to a painful moment in order to somehow make it right?

3. Do we grow to become a more caring or stronger person from a hurtful experience? When we return, or turn back toward a friend, do we realize that we are, in fact, moving toward Hashem?

 

Teshuva As A Physical Turning Point

Teshuva is an opportunity to turn around – to make better choices with our words, actions and thoughts. As we daven on Yom Kippur, and recognize the mistakes we have made, we can and should also be using these moments as a turning point in our lives.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Here is the beginning of the mention of Teshuva in the Torah:

    דברים פרק ל (א) וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה:

    And when these things come upon you – the blessings and the curses – which I have put before you, you shall וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ do Teshuva in your heart, in all the distant places where God has removed you thence.

    Why does the Torah use the phrase “the blessings and the curses – which I have put before you”? Would it not have been sufficient to say “curses-
    which I have put before you”? If it is all only about the Teshuva after punishment for sins, why mention the blessings?
    The Netsiv* says, that many parts of the Torah are formulated so that more than one understanding is valid. Often a whole additional understanding is hinted at by a seemingly superfluous word.
    Here this seemingly superfluous word is “the blessings”: Why should a person repent if he has just received a blessing from God? When does one receive a blessing for sinning, and that blessing is a sign we should repent?
    Obviously this is not the meaning of the Torah.
    The understanding of this seemingly superfluous word can be understood based upon the understanding of the fuller meaning of the concept of Teshuva.

    Let’s start with the common meaning, of Teshuva after understanding that one has sinned. This understanding is closely related to repentance, but it is not identical with repentance, it is much broader – and much more demanding.

    רמב”ם הלכות תשובה פרק ב הלכה ב
    ומה היא התשובה? הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו, ויסירו ממחשבתו, ויגמור בלבו שלא יעשהו עוד, שנאמר יעזוב רשע דרכו וגו’, וכן יתנחם על שעבר, שנאמר כי אחרי שובי נחמתי, ויעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב לזה החטא לעולם, שנאמר ולא נאמר עוד אלהינו למעשה ידינו וגו’, וצריך להתודות בשפתיו ולומר עניינות אלו שגמר בלבו.
    “And what is Teshuva?
    1. One must refrain from further sinning,
    2. remove the sin from one’s mind,
    3. determine in one’s heart that one will never do it again,
    4. and repent for what one has done,
    5. and call the “knower of hidden things” to witness that he shall never return to this act [or omission].
    So clearly repentance is PART of Teshuva for having sinned, and clearly it is not the whole of Teshuva.

    Clearly the last two – 4 and 5 – are a response to one’s having sinned. But the first three elements apply also in other situations, in the situation where one should do Teshuva as a result of a blessing. I want to claim that this is the most common form of Teshuva needed.

    The first three elements are:
    1. One must refrain from further sinning, = changing one’s actions
    2. remove the sin from one’s mind, = changing one’s thoughts
    3. determine in one’s heart that one will never do it again, = making a change in one’s feelings and inclinations

    These three elements are necessary whenever there is a significant change in our objective or subjective stuation.

    As the Rambam hinted:

    The person who has done TESHUVA says “I am not the same person”, and that person changes his ways.
    When we become a different person – we must change our ways.

    Example: a poor man wins a large lottery – he has to
    1. change his actions: he may no longer beg!
    2. change his thoughts: he must no longer think about how to beg!
    3. change his way of relating to other people: they are no longer potential donors to his wellbeing.
    More than that:
    1. Action: not only may he no longer beg, he must give!
    2. Thoughts: he must think not about receiving, but about giving! This will entail time and effort – and money – to see where to give charity!
    3. He must consider learning to be a leader in charity, when as a poor person he could not fulfill this function.

    This is a pretty simple – but rare – example of Teshuva.
    Let’s try a more common one:
    A young couple get married.
    1. They have immediately to stop looking for a person to have a relationship with – change of actions;
    2. thoughts: they must think mainly about how to make the marriage a success
    3. the way of relating to other people – now I am married.

    Another:
    The young wife becomes pregnant.
    WOW!! What an immense change in the situation: The mother immediately begins to undergo hormonic changes, which entail so many elements – including the element that the baby replaces no less beloved husband as the center of her attention. The young husband often feels left out, rejected, becomes resentful – he has to do Teshuva: a blessing is on the way, one has to do Teshuva! One has to adjust to the new situation! He has to begin to learn to think, to feel as a Father. Thank God the pregnancy usually takes nine months!
    The baby is born. WOW!! I AM a father, with new responsibilities, with a need to learn to work with my beloved wife on an entirely new element of our situation!
    The child goes to first grade – WOW! What a change in his life! How do I adjust my way of thinking and of behaving to this child? Teshuva!
    A second child is born – now three people have to do Teshuva: we have to make room for the newcomers in out schedules, in our minds and in our hearts!
    Every blessing needs adjustment. This adjustment is Teshuva.
    Teshuva means adjusting onesself to be in harmony with one’s situation, whether as a result of sinning – which we may become aware of only after a “curse”, or – better – as a result of a blessing.
    May we have a blessed year. Shana Tovah!

    *Naftali Tzvi Yeehuda Berlin, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Vollozhin

  2. Here is the beginning of the mention of Teshuva in the Torah:

    דברים פרק ל (א) וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה:

    And when these things come upon you – the blessings and the curses – which I have put before you, you shall וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ do Teshuva in your heart, in all the distant places where God has removed you thence.

    Why does the Torah use the phrase "the blessings and the curses – which I have put before you"? Would it not have been sufficient to say "curses-
    which I have put before you"? If it is all only about the Teshuva after punishment for sins, why mention the blessings?
    The Netsiv* says, that many parts of the Torah are formulated so that more than one understanding is valid. Often a whole additional understanding is hinted at by a seemingly superfluous word.
    Here this seemingly superfluous word is "the blessings": Why should a person repent if he has just received a blessing from God? When does one receive a blessing for sinning, and that blessing is a sign we should repent?
    Obviously this is not the meaning of the Torah.
    The understanding of this seemingly superfluous word can be understood based upon the understanding of the fuller meaning of the concept of Teshuva.

    Let's start with the common meaning, of Teshuva after understanding that one has sinned. This understanding is closely related to repentance, but it is not identical with repentance, it is much broader – and much more demanding.

    רמב"ם הלכות תשובה פרק ב הלכה ב
    ומה היא התשובה? הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו, ויסירו ממחשבתו, ויגמור בלבו שלא יעשהו עוד, שנאמר יעזוב רשע דרכו וגו', וכן יתנחם על שעבר, שנאמר כי אחרי שובי נחמתי, ויעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב לזה החטא לעולם, שנאמר ולא נאמר עוד אלהינו למעשה ידינו וגו', וצריך להתודות בשפתיו ולומר עניינות אלו שגמר בלבו.
    "And what is Teshuva?
    1. One must refrain from further sinning,
    2. remove the sin from one's mind,
    3. determine in one's heart that one will never do it again,
    4. and repent for what one has done,
    5. and call the "knower of hidden things" to witness that he shall never return to this act [or omission].
    So clearly repentance is PART of Teshuva for having sinned, and clearly it is not the whole of Teshuva.

    Clearly the last two – 4 and 5 – are a response to one's having sinned. But the first three elements apply also in other situations, in the situation where one should do Teshuva as a result of a blessing. I want to claim that this is the most common form of Teshuva needed.

    The first three elements are:
    1. One must refrain from further sinning, = changing one's actions
    2. remove the sin from one's mind, = changing one's thoughts
    3. determine in one's heart that one will never do it again, = making a change in one's feelings and inclinations

    These three elements are necessary whenever there is a significant change in our objective or subjective stuation.

    As the Rambam hinted:

    The person who has done TESHUVA says "I am not the same person", and that person changes his ways.
    When we become a different person – we must change our ways.

    Example: a poor man wins a large lottery – he has to
    1. change his actions: he may no longer beg!
    2. change his thoughts: he must no longer think about how to beg!
    3. change his way of relating to other people: they are no longer potential donors to his wellbeing.
    More than that:
    1. Action: not only may he no longer beg, he must give!
    2. Thoughts: he must think not about receiving, but about giving! This will entail time and effort – and money – to see where to give charity!
    3. He must consider learning to be a leader in charity, when as a poor person he could not fulfill this function.

    This is a pretty simple – but rare – example of Teshuva.
    Let's try a more common one:
    A young couple get married.
    1. They have immediately to stop looking for a person to have a relationship with – change of actions;
    2. thoughts: they must think mainly about how to make the marriage a success
    3. the way of relating to other people – now I am married.

    Another:
    The young wife becomes pregnant.
    WOW!! What an immense change in the situation: The mother immediately begins to undergo hormonic changes, which entail so many elements – including the element that the baby replaces no less beloved husband as the center of her attention. The young husband often feels left out, rejected, becomes resentful – he has to do Teshuva: a blessing is on the way, one has to do Teshuva! One has to adjust to the new situation! He has to begin to learn to think, to feel as a Father. Thank God the pregnancy usually takes nine months!
    The baby is born. WOW!! I AM a father, with new responsibilities, with a need to learn to work with my beloved wife on an entirely new element of our situation!
    The child goes to first grade – WOW! What a change in his life! How do I adjust my way of thinking and of behaving to this child? Teshuva!
    A second child is born – now three people have to do Teshuva: we have to make room for the newcomers in out schedules, in our minds and in our hearts!
    Every blessing needs adjustment. This adjustment is Teshuva.
    Teshuva means adjusting onesself to be in harmony with one's situation, whether as a result of sinning – which we may become aware of only after a "curse", or – better – as a result of a blessing.
    May we have a blessed year. Shana Tovah!

    *Naftali Tzvi Yeehuda Berlin, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Vollozhin

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