Mitzvah 364 – Concept 75 Teshuvah Part Six
The confession is only effective if one has done Teshuva. We do Teshuva in order to make our confessions effective. The main Mitzvah is the confession, not the Teshuva.
The confession must be done before God.1 One must be aware of God’s Presence when one confesses.
The Hebrew word Vidui can mean; 1) admission,2 2) recognition3 and 3) to purge one’s self of one’s sinful behavior.4
The purest, most perfect form of Teshuva is one born from an unlimited love of God and is not based on fear of retribution.
One must regret all of one’s sins, resolve not to repeat them and then confess.
The Seven Steps of Teshuva:
- One must first acknowledge responsibility; I have sinned.
- One must acknowledge that one’s actions have been destructive.
- One must remember that there is punishment for each sin.
- One must remember that every action is written down on a permanent record.
- One must remember that Teshuva heals all of the above.
- One must realize that they have repaid all of God’s blessings with bad behavior.
- One must commit himself to tear out the parts of his heart that have led him to sin.5
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler states that to be able to truly strive toward God the sinner is required to burn all his bridges to the parts of his past that led him to sin, so that he will never return to his previous ways. This concept is demonstrated every year when Jews burn their Chametz on the day before Pesach. The evil instinct is compared to leaven and it must be totally eradicated.6
Each specific sin must be listed.7
Speech is considered an action8. Confession is an active step in repairing the relationship with God.
One must specify that he regrets his actions and that he is embarrassed.9
One must use his own words and specifically ask for forgiveness.10
“The hidden sins are for God, our Lord, but the revealed sins are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of His Torah.”11 A person must do Teshuva one step at a time; at first everything should be “hidden,” an internal process that is seen only by God. When he is prepared to grow further then he can begin to act with Teshuva in public.12
“It will be that when all these things come upon you- the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you;” a person who is truly deferential will feel humble when he receives blessings from God. He will feel undeserving of all these blessings and they will feel like curses as long as he feels unworthy. He will have turned a blessing into a curse.13 Humility does not mean to always feel undeserving. One must experience the pleasure of God’s blessing, because the pleasure will bring him closer to God than will this intense and destructive humility.
“They shall confess their sin that they committed.”14 The Hebrew word, V’Hitvadu, they shall confess, is in the reflexive form, as though it were, they shall confess themselves, to teach us that the value of confession lies in its action upon the consciousness of the one confessing.15 David taught the way to Teshuva along similar lines; “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”16
1 Laws of Teshuva 2:5 Shulchan Aruch; Yoreh Deah 6072 Targum Yonatan Bamidbar 5:73 Targum Onkelos ibid4 Rambam Le-am5 Duties of The Heart; The Gate of Teshuva, Chapter 36 Michtav Me’Eliyahu Volume 37 Yoma 36b see also Daniel 9:58 Bava Metzia 90b Derch Mitzvotecha page 389 Jeremiah 31:18 and Ezra 9:510 Duties of the Heart11 Deuteronomy 29:2812 Rabbi Elazer of Tranugrad, Noam Megadim, ibid13 Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov14 Numbers 5:5-715 Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid16 Psalms 51:5