Quotations and Ideas on
Teshuvah (Repentance) featured on
the CD Transformation Now
Track 5 – The Will to Repent
“The will which is forged by teshuvah is the will which is imbedded in the depths of life, and not the lesser will that concerns itself with the superficial and external facets of life. This (deeper) will is the most fundamental force in the foundation of life, and this is the genuine character of the soul.” – Rav A.I. Kook, Orot Hateshvuah.
“How does free will operate? He answered in simplicity: Choice is in the hands of the person. If he wants, he does. And this is very crucial, for many are confused by it, for they are habituated in their deeds and ways from their youth. Therefore, it seems to them that they have no choice, God forbid, and that they cannot change their deeds. But truly it is not like that. For certainly, every human being has choice, always, on every matter. And just as person wants, s/he does. Try to understand this in its extreme.” – Reb Nachman of Bratslav, Likutei Moharan II.
Let not the notion, expressed by foolish gentiles and senseless Israelites, pass through your mind that at the beginning of a person's existence, the Almighty decrees that one is to be either righteous or wicked. This is not so. Every human being may become righteous like Moses, or wicked like Jeroboam, wise or foolish, stingy or generous, and so with all qualities. –Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah.
All of the talents in the world are merely to implement the person’s will to do good, which becomes stamped into his being through the light of constant teshuvah. A great influx of God’s spirit falls constantly over him/her, and a holy will increases in him/her, far surpassing the aspirations of ordinary people. S/he comes to recognize the positive value of true success – the will for goodness, which is solely dependent on the person him/herself, and not any external condition. – Rav A.I. Kook, Orot Hateshvuah.
Track 6 – Ultimate Teshuvah
There is a type of teshuvah – a vague, general teshuvah. Past sin or sins do not weigh on a person’s heart. Rather, s/he has a general feeling of profound inner depression, that s/he is filled with sin, that God’s light does not shine on him/her, that there is nothing noble in his/her being. S/he senses that his/her heart is sealed, that his/her personality and traits are not on the straight and desirable path that is worthy of gracing a pure soul with a wholesome life. S/he feels that his/her intellectual insights are primitive, and that his/her emotions are mixed with negativity and lusts which awake within him/her a spiritual repulsion. S/he is ashamed of him/herself; s/he knows that God is not within him/her; and this is his/her greatest anguish, his/her most frightening sin. S/he is embittered with him/herself; s/he can find no escape from this snare which involves no specific wrongdoing. Rather it is as if his/her entire being is imprisoned in dungeon locks.
From out of this psychic bitterness, teshuvah comes as a healing plaster from an expert physician. Teshuvah …, with all its power, comes and streams into his/her soul. The encompassing rebirth which teshuvah affords all who cling to it, surrounds the person with grace and mercy. As Isaiah spoke in God’s name: “Just as a man is comforted by his mother, so I shall comfort you” (66:13).
With each passing day, powered by this lofty general teshuvah, his/her feeling becomes more secure, clearer, more enlightened with the light of intellect, more clarified according to the foundations of Torah. His/her demeanor becomes brighter, anger subsides, the light of grace shines on him/her. S/he becomes filled with strength; his/her eyes are filled with a holy fire; his/her heart is completely immersed in springs of pleasure; holiness and purity envelop him/her. A boundless love fills all of his/her spirit, his/her soul thirsts for God, and this very thirst satiates all of his/her being. The holy spirit rings before him/her like a bell, and s/he is informed that all of his/her willful transgressions, the known and the unknown, have been erased; that s/he has been reborn as a new being; that all of the world and Creation are reborn with him/her; that all of existence calls out in unison, and that the joy of God infuses all. [In the words of the Talmud, Yoma 86a,] “great is teshuvah for it brings healing to the world.” – Rav A.I. Kook, Orot Hateshvuah.
What is complete repentance? [It is achieved by] a person who has the opportunity to repeat a past offense, and is able to commit it, but nevertheless refrains from doing so because of penitence, and not out of fear or failure of vigor. For instance, if a man had sinful intercourse with a woman, and after a time was alone with her, his passion for her persisting, his physical powers unabated, while he continued to live in the same district where he had sinned, and yet he refrains and does not transgress, he is a complete penitent (ba’al teshuvah)…. If however, a person only repented in old age, at a time when he is no longer capable of doing what he had done—although this is not an elevated mode of repentance, it nevertheless avails him, and he is accepted as a penitent.
– Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah.
What does it mean to repent?
to make inward acknowledgement of my sin
to be truly heartbroken over my sin
to be deeply ashamed of my sin
to make open confession of my sin
to make full restitution for my sin
to seek reconciliation with others for my sin
to resolve firmly not to duplicate sin
to ask Divine aid in avoiding such duplication
to beg God's forgiveness for my sin
to find the burden of my sin now removed
to know the comfort of God's pardon and the sweetness of atonement
to be tempted to repeat the same sin, but overcome with God’s help such repetition
to find it more difficult now to sin than not to sin
– Rabbi Herschel Matt, Walking Humbly with God.
Track 7 – Self-Forgiveness & Stages of Teshuvah
Stages of Repentance
1. deep awareness & sincere regret
2. oral confession and apology
3. compensation to whatever degree possible
4. sincere vow never to repeat (mobilizing thought and deed)
5. the opportunity/test to repeat the sin presents itself; the pattern is broken
Law provides structure for repentance and therefore justice.
Law provides structure for forgiveness and therefore reconciliation (or at least closure).