Friday, September 22, 2006

Giving and Getting Forgiveness II

If you've done Teshuva on an aveirah, then you indeed do not need to cry about it anymore. If you did not, then its effect is still there, it is still a negative mark on your Olam Habah, and there is what to cry about.


You did good. Don’t let the Satan trick you into thinking you didn't. You did what Tzadikim invariably do - fall - and you did what Tzadikim hopefully do - get back up.

That’s ALL that counts.

As far as "he" is concerned - you don't have to respect him, and you don't have to forgive him - not now for sure -- when and if he comes begging you for forgiveness, we'll deal with it then.

I know, however, that deep down you "want to want to" forgive him. That’s fine. But right now you can't, and aren't expected to. First forgive yourself - then you'll have a totally different perspective. If at that point, you find it within yourself to forgive him, that’s one thing. But don’t beat yourself up over the fact that you cant, now. Don't worry so much about him - that's his job. Take care of yourself first. You deserve it.


Teshuva helps 100% if you simply regret and resolve. However, there is a higher level, called "Teshuva Gemura" where you end up in the same position as you were before and you resist. If you do that you have attained a very high level of Teshuva. But even if you never end up in that position, you still have accomplished teshuva. Source: Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 2:1


Guilt means nothing. Technically, if you really regretted what you did and resolved never to do it again - and only YOU, in your heart of hearts know if that is true - then your Teshuva is guaranteed to be accepted.

This is assuming of course, you fulfilled any possible Halachic conditions, such as returning any stolen items you may have in your possession, etc.

But I once heard from my father-in-law ZT"L a very cute thought on this. He said that when you get a suit back from the cleaners, at the beginning you are very careful not to get it dirty - since it "just came from the cleaners." After a while, you're not so extra careful anymore with it.

So, too, with your Neshomah. When you do Teshuva, it's like you send your Neshoma to the cleaners. If afterwards, you are extra careful not to do anything wrong, it means that your Neshoma is freshly cleaned. But if even after you get your neshoma back form the cleaners you are not so careful to make sure it doesn't get soiled again, it means the cleaners didn't do a good job to begin with...


1. The point of fasting is twofold: (a) It is used when we are involved with doing intense Teshuva. Since our minds are intensely focused on spiritual matters, there is no "time or energy" for food. Rav Yisroel Salanter ZT"L put it this way: On Tisha Bav (when our minds are focused on the terrible destruction for our Bais HaMikdash), who can eat? And on Yom Kippur (when we are granted one day to enter in front of Hashem and beseech Him for life), who cares about eating??"
Fasting itself, without doing Teshuva, misses the whole point. (b) It's like a sacrifice of our own bodies to Hashem. When by not eating, our body feeds on itself for energy, during our Teshuva process, it is similar to offering a Korbon.

2. It is not recommended nowadays to fast more than required, since the hunger tends to weaken and distract us, rather than inspire and motivate us.

3. Teshuva goes with prayer - Teshuva and prayer (and Tzedakah) are things we do when Klall Yisroel is in danger. We recognize the threat to our lives as a message from Hashem to straighten out, and so we do it (hence the fasting), and we beg Hashem to withdraw the decree (hence the prayer).

4. Yom Kippur's fast is very different than the rest. This fast is exclusive in that it is an explicit decree in the Torah: "And you shall afflict yourselves", which Hashem told Moshe means fasting. There is a subtle but tremendous conceptual difference between the fast on Yom Kippur vs. other fasts. On Yom Kippur, the point of the fast is not to refrain from eating per se, but to afflict ourselves - here, the pain is precisely the point. Fasting on Yom Kippur is but one of 5 ways we afflict ourselves on that day, (no wearing leather, no anointing, and no bathing are the others), all mandated in the Torah. If you eat on Yom Kippur it has the same severity as violating Shabbos. It is a capital crime.

I actually fast very badly. But Hashem knows this, too. And Hashem knows also that we are fulfilling the Mitzvah of Chazal to fast and making ourselves suffer in order to show how pained we are at the tragedy that caused the fast. That itself is a tremendous zechus, and since Hashem doesn’t expect of us more than we can do, He will judge our davening on a taanis based on the extra effort we put in because of the Taanis.


The fast is supposed to be an inevitable by-product of our mind-set for the day. Teshuva, not fasting is the main purpose of the day. Fasting is just part of that.

That’s why the Mishna Brura says that if a person fasts on a fast day without doing Teshuva, he missed the point of the fast.

Fasting also is a Kaparah, atonement, like a korban: the flesh that we “burn up” on a Taanis is like the meat of a Korbon. It’s kind of like sacrificing just a little part of yourself.

One important note, though: the fact that the Mishna Brurah says that fasting without Teshuva misses the point, does not mean that if you are not going to do Teshuva, you may as well eat. You can’t do that, because there is still a prohibition of eating. On a fast, you have 3 options:

1) Fast and do Teshuva -- the right option.
2) Fast without doing Teshuva – you miss the point.
3) Do not fast or do Teshuva – you miss the point AND get an aveirah for eating.


If you were sincere in your commitment never to do it again, and you regretted that you did it in the first place, that constitutes Teshuva, and you are forgiven, even if you later found yourself doing the Aveirah again.

The trap you need to avoid, however, is what is called "echteh v'ashuv", which means, you say "I will do this sin and later I will do Teshuva and get forgiven". That's a problem, since it becomes your ability to do Teshuva that's giving you the courage to sin. That makes it much harder for you to do Teshuva when the time comes.

Nobody is beyond forgiveness. The poskim say that someone who believes he is beyond forgiveness makes a Brachah L'Vatalaha each day when he says "chanun hamarbeh l'sloach". Hashem is waiting for you with His arms open.


1) Teshuva M’Yirah turns your aveiros into Shogeeim.
Question: Why shogegim?
My answer: Because someone who does Teshuva M’yirah doesn’t really regret that he did an aveirah, he regrets that he incurred a punishment. His ‘yirah’ is fear of getting punished but the aveirah in and of itself is not his issue. Therefore, Hashem removes the punishment , but leaves him with the aveirah. An aveirah that comes without a punishment, that’s the status of a shogeg.

2) Teshuva Gemmurah
The Rambam writes that a complete Teshuva (i.e. a higher level of Teshuva) takes place only when a person relives the previous situation in which he sinned finds himself alone with the same woman he sinned with, in the same place, with the same desire and refrains. Question: How exactly does this experience enhance a person’s Teshuva? After one regrets his deed and commits not to repeat it, what precisely does this experience add to the Teshuva process?
My answer: The point of this experience is not to test him with the same level of Nisayon, but rather to show him that the first time he did the aveirah he no excuse. Sometimes a person does regret the sin he did, but still harbors doubts in his mind as to his ability to have been able to refrain. He may say
I really regret what I did, but you know, it was really hard not to.
To totally rid himself of this attitude, he goes through the exact same experience again, and refrains. If there is any way to distinguish or differentiate between the circumstances he is in now and the time he did the aveirah, then it does not fulfill the criteria of oso isha osos perek oso medinah etc; - he relives the past experience and sees that he refrained this time, which means that the first time he did it, he indeed could have resisted as well. This intensifies, or completes, in the language of the Rambam his regret of his past deed.

3) On Rosh Hashanah, Tzadikim are inscribed for life; Reshaim for death; Beinonim are deferred until Yom Kipur. If they do Teshuva, they get life, if not, then death.
Rav Yisroel Salanter asks: In the days between RH and Yom Kippur, the Benoni could have done so many more Mitzvos than aveiros, thus tipping the scales and changing his status from a Beinoni to a Tzadik by the time Yom Kippur arrives. Yet form the Gemora is seems that no matter how many more Mitzvos you do and how big a Tzadik you become, if you do not do Teshuva, you get death. Why? (Rav Yisroel Salanter answers that the aveirah of not doing Teshuva is so severe that it outweighs all the Mitzvos a person can possibly do).
My answer: The judgment on Rosh Hashanah is based on what you did the past year. That decides whether you live or die. Any subsequent Mitzvos and aveiros you do, even if they are done during aseres yemei teshuva, go on the scale of next year’s judgment. Once the year is up, so is your chance to change. The only thing that can save you after Rosh Hashanah is something that goes back in time and retroactively erases the past aveiros that you did during the prior year. That is Teshuva. Everything else you do goes on next year’s reckoning.

4) Hachzireinu B’teshuva Sheleimah Lifonecha
Question: Of all the 613 Mitzvos, why is it that the only specific Mitzvah that we pray to Hashem to give us is Teshuva. We do pray in general to serve Hashem, but here we have a specific action, Teshuva, singled out as a special prayer. Why is Teshuva unique in that it deserves a special prayer outside of the general prayers that we say to serve Hashem?
Another question: in this prayer, we do not ask for just Teshuva. We ask for teshuva sheleimah. What is incomplete teshuva that we need to specify that we want teshuva sheleimah?
My answer (which starts with one more question): The Rambam writes that in order to have Teshuva Gemurah you have to be in the exact same position you were in the first time, with the exact same woman the sin was done with,. However, the Rambam also wrotes in the next Halachah that a Baal Teshuva is supposed to stay far, far away from the thing he sinned with. So if the Baal Teshuva is supposed to stay far away from that woman, and women in general, how in the world is he ever going to get to do Teshuva Gemurah?
The answer is, it is clear from here that Teshuva Gemurah , although great merit, is only obtainable as a gift form G-d, and is not something we are allowed to pursue on our own. On the contrary, our responsibility is to run away from the circumstances that caused us to sin. If, despite his efforts, he finds himself in the unwelcome circumstances of being tempted again, then, he resists and he gets Teshuva Gemurah.

Support for this: As part of the circumstance needed for Teshuva Gemurah, the Rambam includes the person being in Yichud with the same woman. Certainly the Rambam is not suggesting that a person purposely put himself in Yichud with the woman, for that would be assur. Rather, the Rambam is describing a situation that happened not by your design by accident. So it is no big chidush that just as you are supposed to avoid Yishud with the woman yet it is a requirement for Teshuva Gemurah, so too you are supposed to avoid all contact her altogether, and yet that contact can still be a requirement for Teshuva Gemurah.

What comes out is, Teshuva Gemurah is unique among Mitzvos in that even though it is a great merit, we are not allowed to pursue it. In fact, we are obligated to run away from it, even if we know we can resist the temptation. Only Hashem can grant it to us in His benevolence, despite our best efforts.

Therefore, we pray to Hashem, Hachazireinu beteshuva sheleimah lifonechah. Hashem, please give me the great merit of Teshuva Gemurah, because I am not allowed to pursue it on my own. This one merit, I cannot try to obtain. Only You can give it to me.

That’s why we pray for not plain Teshuva, but Teshuva sheleimah, and only for Teshuva Sheleimah. Because everything else we can pursue on our own. This can only come from Hashem.


In the tochachah we know that the reason for all the horrible curses is "tachas asher loavadita hashem elokecha beimcha uvetov levava marov kol". All the meforshim ask why is it that just because there was no simcha in your avodas Hashem do you deserve such terrible punishment?

I'd like to add another question, regarding the meaning of the phrase "merov kol". If rov kol over here has a similar meaning to "simcha", that is, you should have served Hashem with simcha and with Rov Kol, the posuk should not have said "me"rov kol, but rather "be"rov kol, like it does by simcha.

As background to understand the answer, please see: (The Frumteens Rosh Hashana message)

Now, the answer is that, whenever we have tzoros r"l, we respond by doing Teshuva. We have gatherings, we say Tehillim, we are gozer taanis, we become better.

But although all that is the proper response to tzoros, such a response should not be limited to when bad things happen. Better to do teshuva when good things happen, because good things happen to us, out of gratitude for good things that happen to us.

We should make a Teshuva rally whenever time goes by and no terrorist c"v drives a car bomb into a Yeshiva, or blows himself up in Penn Station or LAX or crashes a plane Hashem yishmeeirnu. The only reason those things don’t happen is because of chasdei Hashem. We should get together and make teshuva rallies and become better out of love for all that Hashem gives us, and each morning when we wake up and we're still alive and we have our eyes and ears and arms and legs, we should do teshuva out of happiness. And when we say Birchas HaShachar in the morning and we thank Hashem for all those things we woke up with we should become more frum, and resolve to be better people from now on, out of happiness and gratitude.

Hashem sends us roses every day. We should run into His arms thanking Him.

But if we don't, if the only time we become better and more frum and change our ways is when bad things r"l happen, then what are we tell gin Hashem? What are we pushing Hashem to do? Our purpose in this world - our only purpose - is to grow and become more frum and better people. And if we only do that when r"l tragedies occur, then what do we expect Hashem to send us?????

"Tachas" (especially when followed by the word "asher") in Hebrew means "because", as in "tachas asher kinah l'elokav", but it also means "instead of", as in "ayin tachas ayin.".

Tachas[/] asher lo avadita Hashem besimcha - Hashem is saying, "Once upon a time you were besimcha. You could have served me out of simcha. You had everything. I sent you roses. You had "rov kol." You could have served Me out of happiness because of all the good you had --- "besimcha [b]merov kol -- with joy, because of all the good you had. The rov kol should have geenrated the simcha and you could have returned to me and became better because of it.

"But you didn’t. You didn’t become better. You didn’t improve out of joy merov kol.

"But don’t worry - you’ll become more frum - you will make asifos and gatherings and say tehillim and Teshuva rallies and fasts and people will do teshuva, and you will fulfill the purpose of your life.

"Just wait until the bad things happen. Then you’ll do Teshuva. You didn’t want to do teshuva when the good things happened? Just wait until the Tochachah happens - then you'll suddenly do Teshuva.

"One way or another, your job in this world is to become better. You could have become better out of joy, but you didn’t. Now, Tachas asher lo avadita ..besimcha merov kol, because you didn’t serve Hashem out of the joy that you had because you had so much --- rov kol -- you will now become better out of tzoros. You had the simcha. teh simcha brought on by rov kol. You were besimcha. But did you do teshuva because of it? Did you serve me because of it? No?

"The, tashas asher lo avadita Hashem besimcha merov kol -- you will now serve Hashem the hard way."

May we all be zocheh to return to Hashem through joy of Rov Kol. May we all recognize that the Rov Kol that we experience each day comes only from Hashem, and that the simcha that we experience because of it, is a gift from G-d.




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