Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Shevat--Opening the Wellspring of Teshuvah

This month is Shevat, the month of the Rosh Hashannah of trees, Chag Ha'ilanos. But what do the trees have to do with me?
The Mekor Chaim, zt"l, writes that trees represent Torah, the "tree of life," and repentance which is also like a tree. Through connecting with the Torah, we are able to come to genuine teshuvah. The Torah compares a human being to a tree of the field, and teshuvah is the process through which a person is recreated and begins a new life. The ill winds of the yetzer hara try to overwhelm a person and drive him to despair that change is impossible, so we need to deeply believe that teshuvah always helps. This belief provides the strong foundation so that the tree (that is, the person) can continue to stand and thrive. As the Toras Avos, zt"l, writes, "Why does Hashem give us life? Because as long as we are alive, we can still repair everything that we have done wrong!"

Just when Rav Boruch Ber Lebovitz, zt"l, returned to Poland with his family after World War I, his father, Rav Shmuel Lebovitz, zt"l, took ill. Rav Boruch Ber sat at his father's bedside day and night until the family began to fear for his health as well. After much pleading, they convinced the Rav to allow one of his students to sit up with his ailing father while the Rosh Yeshiva grabbed some much-needed rest.

That night, Rav Shmuel died. Rav Boruch Ber felt terrible guilt: if only he had been there to comfort and care for his father, perhaps he would still be alive. He was so pained by this thought that he could no longer teach.

The Chofetz Chayim, zt"l, heard about the problem and summoned Rav Boruch Ber. When he arrived, the Chofetz Chayim held Rav Boruch Ber's hands for half an hour and gently repeated, "Teshuva is a gift from our Creator. It doesn't only atone for a person's sins, it transforms him into a completely new person. Why should you feel so pained about the past? You are a completely different person now."

Later, whenever Rav Boruch Ber felt the sadness and guilt come over him, he would echo the gentle words of the Chofetz Chayim. "I am a new person! I am a new person!"

1 comment:

Maestri della Torà said...


Lovely story on Teshuva and the Chafetz Chaim. We can all be a new person, actually, every day.