Teshuva in Responsa XI
Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam (1793-1876), Rabbi of Zans in Galicia, was both a distinguished Talmudist and a Hasidic master with many thousands of followers. His Responsa collection Divre Hayyim contains, as we might have expected, a number of theological discussions.
Two of these deal with penances. In one, he discusses the general question of penance for severe sins. We have seen more than once that in the literature on this subject the ‘balance’ (teshuvat ha-mishkal) of the Rokeah is the guide.
Rav Halberstam begins by stating that repentance involves chiefly a sincere resolve not to repeat the sin and to feel remorse for having transgressed great care not to eat meat from an animal killed by an unreliable shohet and not to drink wine unless he is sure beyond doubt that it is kasher.
The sinner should fast for forty consecutive days, except for the sabbaths and festivals, and during the night he should eat no meat and drink no wine. On nine different occasions he should roll naked in the snow in winter. But if he is too weak to fast he should ‘redeem’ each fast by giving alms.
Nevertheless, he should still fast for a few hours each day and, when he does eat, he should stop short of eating his fill. He should always dress modestly. Rav Halberstam concludes: ‘May God have mercy on him to accept his repentance, together with the repentance of all Israel who returned sincerely to Him.’