Mitzvah 364 – Concept 75 Teshuvah Part Two
The Obligation to do Teshuva/Confess
If a person transgresses any of the Mitzvot of the Torah, whether a positive command or a negative command-whether
willingly or inadvertently- when he repents and returns from his sin, he must confess before God. This confession is a positive command.1
A person is obligated to return to God with all his heart and with all his soul, and to accept on himself and all his future generations to follow God’s Will.2 This is what they did at the time they returned from Babylon to Israel to build the Second Temple3; The remainder of the people, the Cohanim, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim and everyone who had separated themselves from the people of the lands4 to accept the Lord’s Torah, their wives, their sons, their daughters, and all those who had knowledge and understanding, supported their brethren, their dignitaries, and entered into a curse and an oath to follow the Lord’s Torah, which was given through the hand of Moses, the servant of God, and to observe and fulfill all the commandments of God, our Master, and His laws, and His decrees.” 5
“The hidden sins are for God,” as long as a sin was inadvertent and remains hidden from us, we are unaware that we sinned, God will forgive us; it is for Him. The revealed sins, the mistakes we are aware of, are our responsibility to repair through Teshuva.6
“You shall take it to your heart among all the nations where God, your Lord, has dispersed you,” when you take it to your heart that the Divine Presence is suffering in its exile with you among the other nations, you will be stirred to do Teshuva in order to heal the Divine Presence.7 There is no greater impetus to do Teshuva than the suffering of the exile.8
“You and your children,” We must repent even for the sins of our children for if we had been meritorious we would have created the proper environment for them to love God and not sin.9
Teshuva must be only in order to fulfill the Will of your Creator. This is the only Teshuva that can reach all the way to the Divine Throne.10 ‘And you will return unto God, your Lord, and listen to His voice,” means that you will hear the message in all His commandments11 and never again practice the Mitzvot out of habit.12 The biggest Teshuva is necessary not for sins as much as for all the good things that we have done without thinking and being aware of God’s Presence and message. The Ramchal13 teaches us: “We must not only examine what we are doing wrong, we must also examine what we are doing correctly and improve it.” We may be doing many things correctly, but obviously we can improve our approach.
“God spoke to Moses, saying; ‘Speak to the Children of Israel: a man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing treachery toward God, and that person shall become guilty- they shall confess their sin that they committed.”14 These verses are describing the sin of stealing. The law of confession is introduced in the cocncept of stealing because there is an element of theft each time we sin; we are using pleasures and strengths given to us by God and misusing them to go against His will.15 In fact, there was an element of theft in the very first sin; Adam stole one of the fruits of God’s tree!16
1 Maimonides; Laws of Teshuva 1:1
2 Nachmanides, Commentary on the Torah Deuteronomy 30:2
3 Nachmanides believes that there is a direct correlation between redemption and Teshuva. He is convinced that the verses in Deuteronomy teach us that when the Messiah comes, God will circumcise our hearts and all will repent. He compares this to the redemption from Babylon when Ezra and Nehemiah led everyone to return to God. Maimonides disagrees and says that there will be no difference between Messianic times and our own, except that we will once again have a king and will live in peace. “There is no difference between the present age and the Messianic era except the emancipation from our subjugation to the other nations.”(Berachot 34b, Shabbat 63a & 151b) The verse that describes the circumcision of our hearts is symbolic.
4 Many of the people had intermarried when they were in Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah urged them to separate from their non-Jewish spouses, which many of them did.
5 Nehemiah 30:29-306 Rabbi Yechezkail of Radomsk, Kenesset Yechezkail Deuteronomy 29:28
7 Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk Tifereret Shlomo Deuteronomy 30:1
8 Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, Leket Imrei Kodesh Deoteronomy 30:1
9 Rabbi Yisachar Dov of Belz; Leket Imrei Kodesh Deuteronomy 30:2
10 Seforno Deuteronomy 30:2
11 Ha’amak Davar ibid
13 The Path of The Just, Chapter 3
14 Numbers 5:5-7
15 Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Gur; Sefat Emet ibid
16 Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik; Reflections of the Rav, Volume 1