The Way Of Teshuva
We are currently in the middle of the month of Elul, a time during which Jews are busy with teshuva, which will help them merit a good decree for the forthcoming year. Teshuva, tefillah and tzedakah annul bad decrees.
This erev Shabbos Ki Seitzei, we are thirty days prior to Yom Kippur, the mitzvah of the day is surely teshuva. It is the main function we are obligated to fulfill on such a day.
How does one do teshuva? Every year, when Elul arrives, this question reverberates in the yeshivos and batei Midrash– by every Jew alike. In each generation, great mussar and Torah sages address this question anew and probe the various ways of doing teshuva.
Despite the intense involvement in this topic, it is still somewhat unclear, and many people still wonder how to implement teshuva.. Why is this so?
Many people have tried to do teshuva and have already been through many months of Elul in their lifetime, having made countless Yom Kippur resolutions. Yet when a new Elul dawns, they are perplexed once again, and once again wonder how to do teshuva.
Teshuva must be permanent. One who does teshuva must resolve never to return to his sin. Nonetheless, people find themselves struggling each year, with old battles, as if they hadn’t promised never to revert to their old way on Yom Kippur, when they rose up to untold heights, feeling truly clean and pure.
Should we then despair? Chas ve’chalila.
One should never think in such a way, because it is clear that all the efforts that one has made, and all of one’s good intentions, are of great value, and even if a person falls seven times and rises, falling back should not cause us to despair.
Everyone wants to rise, to advance and to reach the Yomim No’raim in a pure state. This can be achieved by listening to mussar and hisorerus discourses and learning sifrei mussar and chassidus which offer much guidance on how to due teshuva properly. We too will suggest a path which will helpful in this endeavor.
It is written: “Vayetzai Kayin” ─And Kayin went out.” From where did he go out? “Rebbi Chuma, in the name of Rebbi Chanina bar Yitzchok said “He went out happy.” Then he met Adom Harishon who asked him how he was judged?” He replied: “I did teshuva and was given a compromise. Adam Harishon slapped his face and said: “Such is the power of teshuva, and I didn’t know about it.’ Immediately he rose and said: ”Mizmor shir le’Yom HaShabbos’ ” (Bereishis Rabbah 22,13).
What is the connection between “Mizmor shir le’yom HaShabbos” and the power of teshuva?
The simple explanation teaches that when a person wants to do teshuva, he must grasp the level on the ladder which will stabilize him on his first rung. The way to achieve this is through the kedusha of Shabbos, which encompasses the entire Torah. When a person connects himself with a deep, spiritual and emotional link to the kedusha of Shabbos, this enables him to stand strongly on the path of kedusha.
This explains why, when Adam Harishon heard about the immense power of teshuva, he immediately searched for a way to link himself to the kedusha and to position himself on a new path, he immediately said “Mizmor shir le’Yom HaShabbos.”
Ayeles Hashachar on the Torah, explains that a person who didn’t finish preparing for Shabbos on erev Shabbos ushers in the sacred day ill at ease, just as Adam Harishon felt ill at ease after he sinned on erev Shabbos, and at ease when Kayin told him about the power of teshuva. Since Adom could then usher in Shabbos in a tranquil mood, he started to say “Mizmor shir le’Yom HaShabbos.”
We are at the beginning of the month of teshuva, and the thirty days prior to Yom Kippur, during which we are required to open a new chapter in our lives and to return to our Creator. The way to achieve this, is by linking ourselves to Shabbos with all our hearts, so that we will be able to completely position ourselves on Torah’s way.
This remarkable opportunity is in our hands. Let us take advantage of it appropriately, and during the final weeks of the year, complete our Shabbos preparations early on Fridays. One half hour before Shabbos, let all our mundane matters be done, so that we may enter Shabbos with “Mizmor shir le’Yom HaShabbos” and merit the light of teshuva.