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What is the Jewish view on repentance?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. The Jewish approach to repentance is magnificent in its simplicity--in Judaism, there is no such thing as "repentance."

B. Repentance is called "Teshuvah" in Hebrew, the official language of Judaism. But teshuvah does not mean repentance. It means return.

C. Judaism is about having a relationship with G-d. "Sinning" just means taking a break from that relationship. Teshuvah means returning to it. "Sinning" is a vacation. Teshuvah is getting back on the job.

How do I do teshuvah?

1. Attitude Adjustment

Firstly, be humble. EGO stands for Edging G-d Out, so chuck it and get nice and stupid as you stand in G-d's Presence (which is everywhere): do you think you're so important that you can do something G-d doesn't want you to do?

Repentance is called "teshuvah" in Hebrew... yet teshuvah does not mean repentance. It means return
2. Verbal Confession

Speak directly to G-d and specify your slip-up. Tell Him you're sorry for what you’ve done wrong, that you regret it, and that you'll do your best to never do it again.

3. Make like a frozen fowl

Go cold turkey. Just stop doing whatever negative Mitzvah you were doing that you shouldn't have been doing, or start doing whatever positive mitzvah you should have been doing, that you weren't doing. At its gut, teshuvah is regret of the past, and resolve towards the future.

4. The Power of Willpower

Mark Twain once said, "Quitting smoking is easy--I've quit 40 times." Obviously, he never tried teshuvah. Teshuvah requires willpower. Willpower is to teshuvah what Super Unleaded is to your car: without willpower, teshuvah just conks out. Whatever mitzvah is your issue, get back in line with it, and stick to it like glue.

5. The Ultimate Teshuvah Test

If you once had an affair, for example, and later, you find yourself alone with that woman, at that same rendezvous, and you don't cave to your raging hormones, congratulations--you've done teshuvah. This is Maimonides' depiction of the willpower of teshuvah. He uses it because there's no greater temptation on earth than sexual desire, and hence no greater example of stalwart willpower than resisting this temptation. If you can do teshuvah for the sins of lust, you can do teshuvah for anything.

TAGS: teshuvah

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COMMENTS

Teshuvah or repentence

Posted by: Ralph G., Phila., PA on Jan 26, 2005

Can I be forgiven? I have three illigitamite children and have not contacted them for forty years.

Editor's Comment

Yes. But you must receive their forgiveness as well.

Verbal confession

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 02, 2006

You say, "Speak directly to G-d and specify your slip-up. Tell Him you're sorry for what you’ve done wrong, that you regret it, and that you'll do your best to never do it again."

A "slip-up"???, "you're sorry"???, and "do your best"??? That sounds whimpy like most of the Baptists these days with their cheap salvation. How about calling the "slip-up" a deliberate choice to be disobedient-- to choose one's own desires over G-d's. And to "do your best" sounds like what my 13 year old son used to say when he really had no intentions of really doing his best. It just made him feel better at the moment and got me off his case.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.