The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes, ‘What is a true teshuva? First, one must stop doing the aveira, then remove it from his thoughts and lastly accept in his heart to never do it again. Finally, regret what you did’. He ends off by saying, ‘and Hashem himself has to testify on behalf of the person-that he will never do it again’; meaning, a person has to be so adamant about never committing the sin again that Hashem can testify on his behalf. That is how strong his desire to never do that aveira again must be.
The question that bothers me is that there are unfortunately very common aveiros that people commit daily. If the Rambam is stating that real teshuva is when one sincerely regrets his acts to the extent that Hashem can testify for him-this seems to imply if he were to ever do that aveira again, his original teshuva was not accepted? That testimonial sounds very frightening. It would come out you that one would never be forgiven. Can it be that no one is ever forgiven except for the person who never ever did that same aveira again?
The gemara in Rosh Hashana (16b) says ‘the Ribono Shel Olam judges a person according to how he is acting right now.’ The gemara brings proof from the Torah from Yishmael. Rashi quotes a Medrash “the Angels in heaven asked Hashem “why save Yishmael if he will only destroy your grandchildren in future generations?” Hashem replied “Right now, is he a tzadik or a rasha?” The Angels responded “He is a tzadik.” Said Hashem, “I judge the (people in the) world in the present state that they are in right now.”
Rabbeinu Chananel brings a Yerushalmi which says that when Hashem judges a person he doesn’t ask if he was pure and straight, but rather is he pure and straight right now.
Explains the Mahabit (in Sefer Bais Elokim-Sha’ar haTeshuva) that when Hashem judges us, it’s a special chesed for klal yisroel. It’s a day in which in of itself is holy and Hashem says to us ‘My children, I am coming down to judge you. And you should know, that I will judge you by your behavior on that day.’ What’s in your heart right now? What do you want to be right now? How are you right now? The Chayei Adam uses the same language as the Rambam but he adds two very important words, which are: ‘b’osah sha’ah.’- at that time. Hashem, with his extraordinary power of chesed, judges us by how we act on Yom Kippur itself.
The moment a person is standing in shul-and beating his chest-is the moment that a person is on a level that if he were to remain on that level all year long and an aveira were to come his way, he would be able to overcome his yetzer hara and avoid sinning; that is ba’asher hu shum. Climb the ladder; strive to get to that level; you’re then a ba’al teshuva. Hashem is able to testify at that moment that you’ll never do the aveira again. (If a person does indeed sin after that, the reason must be because he’s not on that level anymore. Of course his teshuva was accepted but he slipped from his level.) That’s the avodah of Yom Kippur; to push ourselves to get to that level.
If we were to take this a step further we can ask ourselves, is this really true? All a person needs is to be on that level for one minute for his teshuva to be accepted? How is that possible and how does that work?
To answer this let us ask a basic question: how does teshuva work? Ramchal answers this by asking, what if someone kills a person but later regrets it? Does his regret really work? The person is still dead. Just because he regrets it does not undo what was done. How does a person undo something if it can’t be reversed?
The chiddush is that once a person removes and regrets the desire that he had at the time of the act-we view it as an action that he didn’t desire. If you’re able to remove the willingness and consent from the action, you’re in essence removing your will from the action and you just disassociated yourself from this action! Once a person gets to that level-even for a minute-what you have accomplished was that you removed your will from the action-and since you’re not associated with it anymore we can now accept your teshuva!
When dealing with teshuva one has to try to distance themselves from the actions they have done. That is done by taking away the will; even for a minute-if you get to the madrega that you regret it so strong that Hashem can testify on your behalf-you have achieved removing your will from the action.
One should acknowledge that it’s a fabulous chesed that Hashem only judges us on this day, at this time- the time we are in shul-and not any other time of the year-and He allows us to be judged when everyone’s mind and hearts are set on doing the right thing. A person has to work on himself from the beginning of Yom Kippur to the end of Yom Kippur and try to climb the ladder to attain the level that if he were to maintain that madrega all year, he would not commit a sin. If one does that he can be sure that his teshuva will be valid and acceptable.
Wishing all my readers, and all of klal Yisroel, a Gut Gebentched Yur.
גמר חתימה טובה
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