Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spirit of the Law: Shabbos #15: Teshuvah is Easy!

(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:15) “Every erev Shabbos one should search his deeds and repent what he has done wrong during the six days of the week, since erev Shabbos includes the six days of the week.”
The Ramak explains that Shabbos can only be received through teshuvah, especially from whatever bad we may have done during the past week. It is important to note that repentance is not as hard as many seem to think. Rav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, writes that teshuvah itself as outlined in the Gemara is easy to accomplish. One simply decides that he does not wish to return to his old ways. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt”l, explains this in depth.
The truth is that in that same work, Rav Chaim of Volozhin seems to contradict himself. He says (like the famous Rambam) that the Torah commandment of repentance comprises three key elements: regret, wholehearted abandonment of the sin; resolution to never repeat the sin. This last commitment has to be powerful enough to counter the natural entropy toward further sin generated by the original error. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt"l, discusses the subject at great length and surmises that there are really two basic stages; teshuvah itself, which is simple, and atonement which requires the three elements.
The most straightforward of explanations of how the simple teshuvah of the Gemara relates to the three-step full teshuvah described by the Rambam is offered by Reb Nosson of Breslov, zt”l. He writes that the process of teshuvah usually demands very many beginnings until one merits true and full repentance. This means that one must do teshuvah as outlined in the Gemara many times until one merits to truly atone for the sin by achieving the three conditions described above.
We must do teshuvah whenever we can until we merit complete teshuva. At the very least we must do teshuva every Erev Shabbos to merit the connection afforded to us on this most holy day.
In light of this teaching we understand why Rebbe Nachman, zt"l, declared with such certainty that there is no such thing as despair. Despair is the result of truly feeling the negative effects of one's sins and believing that it will never be rectified. Yet in reality teshuvah is easy. No matter how far we have fallen we can still rectify everything and ascend to the highest spiritual realms. All we need is to keep doing teshuvah again and again, until Hashem finally helps us rectify the bad, one negative character trait at a time!

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