Seven Levels of Teshuva David Part One
Teshuva Brings Forgiveness to the Entire World
The most important of the ten confessions of Yom Kippur is the one before Yom Kippur begins. We must confess before
the holiday. We are concerned that someone may choke and die before having a chance to confess, therefore, we confess in Mincha before eating the pre-Yom Kippur meal.
This confession before Yom Kippur is on the day itself. The Cohen Gadol would confess over sacrifices. We recite one confession over the day itself. We treat the day as a sacrifice. The Talmud explains that Yom Kippur brings atonement, “bein im asa Teshuva, bein im lo asa Teshuva,” whether he did Teshuva or not.1 There are two parts of Yom Kippur. One is the service. The other is the day itself; “itzumo shel yom mechaper,” “the essence of the day brings atonement.” Yom Kippur is my sacrifice. My fasting, abstention and prayer are all part of treating the day itself as a sacrifice.
The verse says that Yom Kippur is, Achas Bashana,2” “Once a year.” It also means the one day a year that we become one with God. It is our opportunity to draw close to God despite our sins. Nothing limits our relationship with God on this day. This is how our Teshuva can bring atonement for the entire world. When we become one with God we become unlimited as He is. Our reach expands. Our Teshuva extends far beyond us to touch the entire world and bring atonement.3
It was taught that there was a man named Elazar ben Durdaya who had sinned with every harlot he could. He once heard of a harlot far away and he traveled to be with her. When they were together she passed gas. She said, “In the same way that this air cannot be returned, so too Elazar can never do Teshuva.” He went outside and wept, “Mountains and valleys, pray for me!” They responded, “Before we can pray for you we must pray for ourselves.” He turned to the heaven and earth, the sun and the moon, the stars and the constellations and received the same response; “We must pray for ourselves before we can pray for you.” He said, “This matter is entirely in my hands.” He sat with his head in his lap and wept until he died. A heavenly voice declared, “Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya is prepared for the World to Come.”4
Elazar ben Durdaya died doing Teshuva with the clarity that all of creation is affected by our sins. He understood the impact of our actions on the entire universe. His Teshuva brought forgiveness to all of creation. When we have the perspective of our impact on all of creation we bring forgiveness to everything. When we become one with God on Yom Kippur we merit such clarity and perception. We earn atonement for ourslelves and all of creation.
The Talmud teaches that, “One who observes the Shabbat properly, even if he worships idols as they did in the generation of Enosh, is forgiven for all his sins.”5 Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come. It is a taste of infinite life. Touching the infinite brings atonement for everything. On Yom Kippur we touch the infinite. On Yom Kippur our impact on creation is infinite and we bring atonement to everything.
1 Yoma 85b
2 Vayikra 16:34
3 Tiferet Shlomo, Moadim, Shabbat Shuva
4 Avodah Zara 17a
5 Shabbat 118b