Repent! A Survey of Al-Hateshuva-Two Processes of Teshuva #2

5 09 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

Two Processes of Teshuva In Hilchot Teshuva, the Rambam discusses the three segments of vidui (confession): admitting to the sin, regretting the sin, and committing not to sin again. In the first chapter, the Rambam mentions charata (regret) and then kabala al h’aatid (commitment). In the second chapter he mentions kabala al h’atid and then charata. Obviously both elements are necessary, but why is the order reversed?

The Gemara discusses two ways in which a person can be released from his vows, charata-regretand pesach-an opening. Pesach is based on miscalculation. The person wasn’t aware of all the facts, miscalculated, and made a vow. Charata is when the person knew all the facts but couldn’t control his emotions. He made a vow and now regrets it. Charata and pesach stem from two different parts of the human psyche, intellect and emotion. Logic helps us understand and come to conclusions. Emotions control and direct our actions. The struggle between what we know and feel is the conflict between the good and bad inclinations. Either the mind knows what’s right and the heart pulls towards the reverse or the heart intuitively feels what’s right and the mind comes to the wrong conclusions. Pesach is intellectual while charata is emotional. Sin can come from the heart or mind just as repentance can result from an emotional or logical awakening.

Sin is a disease of the soul. Illness indicates imbalance. Just as a physical illness has symptoms, so too does a spiritual sickness. Pain lets us know that we are ill and that we should address the dysfunction quickly. Guilt is a gift from Hashem. It’s the pain of the soul signaling us to get back on track. It’s Hashem telling us to fix ourselves.

The Torah describes the Jewish people’s emotional reaction to chet ha’egel and chet meraglim, “Vayisablu”-They mourned. When a person realizes that he’s failed spiritually, he reacts with depression, sadness, and disappointment. When he sees that he’s tarnished his tzelem Elokim (spark of divinity), he mourns for his soul. Aveilut is a yearning to return to one’s unblemished past. The Jews grieved because of their sins. They remembered the days when Hashem performed great miracles for them. They relived the giving of the Torah and the special bond they formed with their Master. They mourned the purity, the holiness and the closeness they once had. Now after the sin, they felt the loss of this closeness and purity.

Regret is a form of anger directed at oneself. This is supposed to lead to repentance. Teshuva driven by emotional pain requires focusing on the past. It’s much like charata for a vow. This is why the Rambam mentions this teshuva in the first chapter. Many times a person doesn’t have this emotional awakening. He doesn’t know how sick he is. He struggles. His heart is full of desire and then his mind says no. This is teshuva of the intellect and it is more difficult than teshuva of the emotions. Emotional teshuva can happen quickly because the person is eager to escape the pain. Intellectual teshua is slower, because the mind has to overcome emotional proclivity to sin. It can take years, or a lifetime. Intellectual repentance is not a reaction to the past but rather an effort to get back on track for the future.

The mind and heart of a Jew are a receptacle for the Divine Presence as it says, “V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’sochom.” Hashem assures us, “I will reside within each of you.” We’re not alone in the process of teshuva. We are partners with Hashem. May the awakening within our hearts and minds bring us to complete repentance.





Shabbat Shuva: Torah & Tefila, Components of Teshuva

6 09 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Shabbos Shuva

In the Haftora of Shabbat Shuva we read, “Kechu imachem devarim v’shuvu el Hashem. Take with you words and return to Hashem.” The verse continues, “Kol tisa avon vekach tov uneshalmah parim sfaseynu. May You forgive all iniquity and accept good, and let our lips substitute for bulls.” It seems as if the end of the verse is a repetition of the beginning. The Malbim explains that the first part signifies teshuva m’yirah while the second part refers to teshuva m’ahavah. When one does teshuva out of fear, one gains an understanding of what it means to be close to Hashem and to experience the sweetness of Torah. This propels us further to continue and deepen our love for Hashem.  Teshuva m’ahava transforms sins into good deeds. Consequently, in place of sacrifices, only words will be necessary. Devarim refers to words of Torah and tefila. How do these words impact teshuva?

The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva notes that a sinner’s mitzvot are destroyed and can only be recaptured when he performs teshuva. What does this mean? Rav Solomon explains that it does not mean that the mitzvot are actually decimated. Rather, they are like burning candles hidden behind a thick veil of sin waiting to be revealed.  “Kechu imachem devarim,” confess your sins. “Imru eilav,” pray to Hashem. “Vkach tov,” allow the good energy to flow through.

This is why we recite on Kol Nidrei night, “Ohr zerua l’tzaddik ulyishrei lev simcha.” Let us bask in the light planted for tzaddikim. Now that we’ve repented, allow us the joy and benefit of those hidden mitzvot. Rav Dessler notes that a critical part of teshuva is praying to Hashem to remove the sins blocking our path so that we can ascend further in avodat Hashem. It is difficult to repent in darkness and the light of mitzvot cannot be accessed before doing teshuva.  Therefore, the first step is to do one or two mitzvot and feel its hidden sweetness. This will ignite a person’s desire to do teshuva and ultimately propel him onward.

In Timeless Seasons, Rabbi Roberts quotes the Gemara that “Kechu imachem devarim” refers to words of Torah. Without knowing what is wrong a person cannot see the error of his ways. Therefore, a pivotal part of the teshuva process is studying the Torah, particularly halacha. One can only be a true servant of Hashem if he studies the details of how to be one.

On Shabbat Shuva, the prophet Hoshea adjures us, “Shuva Yisrael ad Hashem Elokecha. Return   O Israel to Hashem.” The greatest aspect of teshuva is “Ein od milvado,” recognizing that there is no entity that we can rely on, but Hashem. Physical strength, finances, and well connected friends, are all illusory and transient.  Just as an orphan has no one to turn to but Hashem, our only real hope is our Father in Heaven.





Shabbat Shuva: The Eternal Message

22 09 2009

Shabbat Shuva: The Eternal Message

The Shabbos before Rosh Hashana is called Shabbat Shuva, after the Haftarah (reading from the Prophets) which is specified for that Shabbos. This Haftora, taked from Hoshea Chapter 14, contains many of the yesodot (fundamnetals) of Teshuva (repentance), and Hashem’s unique relationship with the Jewish people. Shira Smiles plumbs the depths of this relativly short passage, in this unique four-part series.

The first class in this series is:

The Intrinsic Purity of Every Jew

In this Torah shiur (class) on the Haftarah of Shabbat Shuva, Mrs. Shira Smiles begins the reading from Hoshea chapter 14.  In this class, we learn that teshuva/repentance is a dynamic process with Hashem, and that every Jew’s soul is intrinsically pure, which means that even sin does not become part of its essence.  When embarking on the teshuva process, one should have an image of who they want to be, so that they have a goal to aspire to. This Torah class is available online in streaming video and for download in mp3 and ipod video formats at http://Naaleh.com.





Shabbat Shuva: The Eternal Message with Mrs. Shira Smiles

15 09 2009

Shabbat Shuva: The Eternal Message

The Shabbos before Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva, after the Haftora (reading from the Prophets) which is specified for that Shabbos. This Haftora, taked from Hoshea Chapter 14, contains many of the yesodot (fundamnetals) of Teshuva (repentance), and Hashem’s unique relationship with the Jewish people. Mrs. Shira Smiles plumbs the depths of this relatively short passage, in this unique four-part series.

The Intrinsic Purity of Every Jew is the first class in the series. Mrs. Shira Smiles begins the reading from Hoshea chapter 14.  In this class, we learn that teshuva/repentance is a dynamic process with Hashem, and that every Jew’s soul is intrinsically pure, which means that even sin does not become part of its essence.  When embarking on the teshuva process, one should have an image of who they want to be, so that they have a goal to aspire to.





Elul and Rosh Hashana: Days of Closeness and Awe

27 08 2009

Elul and Rosh Hashana: Days of Closeness and Awe

A collection of NEW inspiring Shiurim/classes on the month of Elul and the Chagim/High Holidays by various Na’aleh lecturers.

The first class in this collection is Elul: The Sweetness of Tikkun Hamidot by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller:

In this class on Elul and repentance, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller describes the sweetness of returning to Hashem through correcting one’s character traits, and outlines four systems for Tikun Hamidot. The methods of the Rambam, the Ba’al HaTanya, Sefer Cheshbon Hanefesh, and R’ Nachman MiBreslov are all described in detail.





Just in Time for Rosh Hashana: ‘Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Davening: Open the Gates!’

25 08 2009

Rabbi Michael Taubes is teaching a wonderful course just in time for Rosh Hashana, “Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Davening: Open the Gates!“.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are days of repentance, introspection, and self-definition. They are also days of tefillah, prayer. A close look at the Tefillot of the Yamim Noraim reveals that these tefillot were designed to help us increase our awareness of Hashem, acceptance of His Malchut, and recognition of Din, as well as properly complete the teshuva process. This course goes through the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Machzorim, explaining their structure, the logical sequence of the prayers, and the meaning and symbolism of key tefillot.

Here is a sampling of the first installment of this course, “Themes of Rosh Hashana”:

To view the entire class click here: Themes of Rosh Hashana





Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement

10 09 2008

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish Calender. On this day, G-d seals the fate of each person, deciding what the coming year will hold.  The Sages tell us that Rosh Hashana , the Jewish New Year, is the day when judgment is inscribed, and Yom Kippur, ten days later, is the day when the judgment is sealed.  As the final day of judgment, Yom Kippur is an opportunity for every Jew to fully repent any previous wrongdoings or faults, and merit a year full of blessing.

Atonement For All Sins

The Torah describes Yom Kippur as the “day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30).  The day is marked by fasting and prayer as we beseech G-d for a good year for ourselves, our families, the Jewish People and the entire world.  For 26 hours, we focus completely on returning to G-d.  We refrain from five significant acts.  There is no eating or drinking, we do not wash or anoint our bodies, no wearing leather shoes, and we abstain from marital relations.  These acts represent the material and physical aspects of our lives, and we abstain from them on Yom Kippur in order to emphasize our inner selves, and our longing for closeness to G-d.  It is also a custom to wear white clothing, signifying our desire for purity and holiness.

Repentance and Atonement are key themes throughout the day.  We beg for forgiveness for our sins of the past year and resolve to act only in accordance with G-d’s will.  Our Sages tell us that Yom Kippur can only atone for sins between Man and G-d, such as eating non-kosher food, inadequately fulfilling one’s obligation to learn Torah or pray properly, not keeping Shabbat, etc.  However, Yom Kippur cannot atone for sins between Man and his fellow Man.   Stealing from another person, slandering, or shaming someone will not be forgiven on Yom Kippur unless the sinner first begs for forgiveness from the person he has harmed.  Only once he has appeased his friend can he proceed to ask G-d to forgive him for those sins as well.  It is therefore an accepted practice among Jews to try to remember who they might have harmed over the past year and ask them for Mechila (forgiveness).

The Tefillot of Yom Kippur

There are five specific tefillot, prayers, throughout Yom Kippur: Maariv, Shacharit, Mussaf, Mincha, and Neila.  The highlight of each of these prayers is the Vidui (confession), which is recited twice during each of these five prayers.  Perhaps the most famous prayer of Yom Kippur is not one of the five prayers at all, but an introductory prayer to the Yom Kippur service, the Kol Nidrei. Kol Nidrei is the soft, supplicating prayer that precedes the tefillah of Maariv.  In this short prayer, we exclaim that, tonight, we allow everyone, both the wicked and the righteous, to join together in prayer to Hashem.  We then ask Hashem to nullify any vows and promises that we’ve made over the last year, so that we may begin the coming year with a clean slate. 

Maariv, the Prayer after Nightfall, which is recited after the sun sets and Yom Kippur begins, is different from any other holiday Maariv service. It is the only Maariv prayer that includes Selichot, special supplications for forgiveness. The selichot prayers feature many repetitions of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, the special prayer that G-d taught Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses, when He forgave the sin of the Golden Calf. 

Shacharit, the Morning Prayer, follows the regular pattern of Shacharit for Holidays, and also includes Vidui in the private Shemoneh Esrei and the chazzan’s repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei.  Many piyutim (prayer poems) proclaiming G-d’s Sovereignty versus Man’s impotence, are added to the chazzan’s repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei. The Shacharit prayer ends with the Reading of the Torah, which describes the Kohen Gadol’s service in the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple) on Yom Kippur, and with Yizkor (the Memorial Prayer for the Deceased), which is recited on every holiday.

In the times of the Temple, an extra sacrifice was brought in honor of every holiday.  Now that we don’t have a Temple, Mussaf, the ‘Additional Prayer,’ is added to every holiday Morning Service.  The Shemoneh Esrei of Mussaf describes the sacrifice that was offered in the Temple on the holiday.  The Mussaf of Yom Kippur relates the unique service of the High Priest in the Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur.  On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) sacrificed special sacrifices in order to atone for himself, his family, his tribe, and the Jewish People.  The Mussaf prayers beautifully describe the many steps of purification and atonement performed by the Kohen Gadol, climaxing with the once-a-year entry of the Kohen Gadol into the Kodesh HaKedoshim (Holy of Holies).  During this time, a red thread was hung outside the Beit Hamikdash while the Kohen Gadol was in the Kodesh Hakedoshim.  If the service in the Kodesh HaKedoshim was performed properly, the red thread miraculously turned white, symbolizing G-d’s forgiveness of His People.  The people would then joyously accompany the Kohen Gadol to his home.  One who fervently recites these Mussaf prayers is considered to have actually witnessed the Yom Kippur service in the Temple, and therefore merits the same level of atonement.

Mincha, The Afternoon Prayer, features a reading of the Book of Jonah, which describes Yona Hanavi’s (Jonah the Prophet), attempt to ‘escape’ the prophesy of G-d by leaving Israel, and his subsequent suffering on the boat and in the innards of a large fish.  The theme of the Book of Jonah is repentance; the repentance of Yona Hanavi, the sailors on the ship, and the non-Jewish city of Ninveh are all described.

The last tefillah of the day is Neila, literally the Locking of the Gates.  This prayer is the climax of Yom Kippur.  Recited just before nightfall, we desperately beseech G-d for His mercy before the Heavenly books are closed.  We end the tefilla with a powerful Acceptance of G-d’s Sovereignty, Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim, as the whole congregation cries out the Shema in unison, and follows by affirming our complete faith in G-d by reciting other pesukim of faith repeatedly.

Although Yom Kippur is a serious time, there is an undercurrent of joyful hope. We believe that G-d will accept our sincere repentance and forgive us for our sins, allowing us to build a relationship of love and trust with Him again. The day ends with a shofar blast and singing of “Next Year in Jerusalem” usually accompanied by singing and dancing.

To learn more about Yom Kippur as well as the Yom Kippur Davening (Prayer), check out these Torah video classes at www.naaleh.com: