Mitzvah 364 – Concept 75 Teshuvah Part Four
The Power of Teshuva
They asked Wisdom, 1“What should be the punishment of a sinner?” “Evil pursues sinners,2” it answered,
“the sinner should be pursued by evil and die.” They asked Prophecy, “What should be the punishment of a sinner?” “Behold, all souls are Mine; like the soul of the father, so the soul of the son, they are Mine. The soul that sins-it shall die,”3 said Prophecy, “he shall die.” They asked the Holy One, Blessed is He, “What should be the punishment of a sinner?” He answered, “He should do Teshuva and receive atonement.” This is as it says; “Good and upright is God, therefore He guides sinners on the way.”4
“Then God, your Lord, will bring back your captivity;” if we repent God will redeem us.5 There is a dispute in the Talmud6 whether Teshuva is necessary for the coming of the Messiah. Maimonides considers it essential.7
“For this commandment that I command you today,”8 Maimonides says that this refers to all the commandments in the Torah. Nachmanides9 holds that this is referring to the Mitzvah of Teshuva. Thus, the Torah is predicting that universal Teshuva will in fact occur in the future.
“No obstacle can prevent Teshuva.”10
“And you will return unto God;” the Talmud11 observes that the proper expression in the verse should have been V’shavta El, and you should return to, rather than V’shavata Ad, meaning, you should return until. The reason for the word “Ad” is to accentuate the ideal purpose of Teshuva, which is to raise man up spiritually toward God, as though to reach Him. Rabbi Levi said that Teshuva is supreme for it can reach the Divine Throne.
“Then God, your Lord, will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which God, your Lord, has scattered you.”12 Our Teshuva creates a response in the heavens; God regrets the suffering of His people, and that regret intensifies each time someone does Teshuva13. That is how Teshuva will eventually lead to redemption; His regret will become so powerful that “He will bring back your captivity…”
God, your Lord, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love God, your Lord, with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”14 This is what it means when the Talmud says, “That heaven will help those who come to purify themselves.15”16 Once a person chooses to do Teshuva, God will help him. He will not be on his own. The Creator of the Universe will guide him along the process. God will help him shed all the negative influences of the world around him.17 God will give the person doing Teshuva the clarity necessary to live a life of attachment to God.18 God will teach him how to serve with love and joy.19
“Speak to the Children of Israel: a man or woman who commits any of man’s sins;”20 when the verse says, man, it refers to the original man, Adam. We can repair with our Teshuva the damage caused by Adam’s sin.21 Adam’s sin is the “root” of all sin. He is the one who brought sin into the world. Therefore, each time we do Teshuva we are weakening the influence and power of Adam’s sin.22
Teshuva was created before this world.23 This means that Teshuva was created before God created time which was the first step in the creation of this world. Teshuva is not bound by time; it has no past, present or future. It can reach any moment in time at any moment. Therefore, it has the power to “change” the past as if the sin never happened.
One thought of Teshuva can transform a person from an absolute Rasha into an absolute Tzaddik.24
1 Jerusalem Talmud Makot 2:6
2 Proverbs 13:21
3 Ezekiel 18:4
4 Psalms 25:8
5 Rabbeinu Bachya Deuteronomy 30:2
6 Sanhedrin 97b
7 Laws of Teshuva 7:5
8 Deuteronomy 30:10
10 Sefer HaIkkarim 4:25
11 Yoma 86a
12 Deuteronomy 30:3
13 Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Rophshitz; Zera Kodesh
14 Deuteronomy 30:1-6
15 Yoma 38b
16 Nachamanides Deuteronomy 30:6
17 Abravanel ibid
18 Seforno ibid
19 Kli Yakar and Haamak Davar ibid
20 Numbers 5:6
21 Ba’al Haturim ibid.
22 Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, Noam Elimelech
23 Nedarim 39b
24 Kiddushin 49b; this is only to determine future status. One must complete Teshuva on what he has done in the past.