Seven Levels of Teshuva: Part One Conclusion: Avraham, Healing and Chesed
The Midrash and Talmud describe Avraham as a great doctor. “A precious stone hung from Avraham’s neck. Every sick person who saw it would immediately be cured.”1 The Maharal explains2 that Avraham represents
beginnings. He was the first patriarch, the first Jew and the first monothiest. Healing is being able to start fresh. I can begin my life again.
The first level of Teshuva allows me to begin again without the burdens of the past. I will have to address the past. That will come in future levels of Teshuva. This level, the level of healing, allows a person to start life without being limited by his past.
This is similar to a husband and wife who argue. They can make up and go forward with their lives even if they have not addressed what caused the argument in the first place. They can experience love and passion even before they have worked out every detail. Matters of tension may still be too sensitive to address. They can wait until they learn how to work out the issues that separated them. This is Teshuva that is healing. It allows for renewal even before all the past has been repaired.
It is not a coincidence that Avraham the healer is the paradigm of chesed. Chesed, commonly mistranslated as kindness, actually means life force. It was chesed that was the primary objective in the creation of this world and life. God created the world in order to give good to another.3 This good is an expression of giving, or chesed. Chesed is the force that led to creation. It is the source of all life. Avraham recognized this life force. He looked around him and saw a world filled with countless expressions of life. He understood that there was a single creator for all this life. He wanted to serve the creator. There were no instructions so he decided to emulate the creator by living a life of chesed. Avraham was filled with this life force which is how he was able to be such a powerful healer.
The ability to begin, to live with a fresh start after the first level of Teshuva, is an expression of the same chesed of Avraham and that was the purpose of creation.
Yom Kippur Service:
The most dangerous part of the service of the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was when he entered the Kodesh Kodashim, the Holy of Holies. The most dangerous of all the times he entered was when he went in to offer the incense. The Torah says, in its literal translation, that he should enter with smoke. It seems to mean that he should place the incense on the coals before entering the Holy of Holies so that he will enter with smoke. The Oral Law teaches that it actually means that he must enter with the coals in a pan in one hand, the incense in the other and only place the incense on the coals after he is inside. The smoke must start after he is inside the Holy of Holies.
The reason that the smoke must begin only after entering is because it represents this level of Teshuva. We are beginning again. The Cohen Gadol does not enter with smoke that already existed. He begins the smoke only after facing God in His holiest place. Teshuva has healed me to the point that I face God and am granted a fresh start. I may have failed in the past. However, I am coming to You and committing myself to beginning again.
I must picture how I would start my life all over again if only granted the opportunity. Yom Kippur, and the healing powers of Teshuva provide me with just that opportunity. It is almost impossible to imagine two people in a relationship being able to start fresh without any of the problems and issues of the past. Yet, God provides us with that gift through the healing powers of Teshuva.
1 Bava Basra 16b
2 Chiddushei Aggadot Volume 3, Page 76 Bava Basra 16b
3 Ramchal, The Way of God, Section 1, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1