Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shabbos Teshuvah Ha'azinu 5635

At the most basic level repentance means that a person regrets having sinned and determines not to repeat it. However, we know that a person’s actions have ramifications both in the spiritual and in the physical. A sinner has caused damage. He has caused damage in the spiritual realms and this has resulted in damage to the physical world as well. When the sinner repents what happens to the damage the sin has caused? Is it simply wiped away? Furthermore, he has distanced himself from God, the source of all life. How does repentance repair the damage and restore the sinner’s connection with God?

We can gain insight from a Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi explains that on Rosh HaShanah we become new beings. The Sfas Emes explains that repentance is the mechanism for drawing new life to the sinner. In fact, the Sfas Emes says that this is the primary function of repentance. New creations are created from nothing. Before God created light there was, “… tohu vavohu vechoshech …/… chaos, emptiness and darkness …” The first step for the penitent, then, is to realize that because of his sin he has lost the privilege to exist. He exists solely because God is bestowing upon him underserved existence. The Sfas Emes explains that the Hebrew word for repentance – teshuvah – hints at this idea because it contains the same letters as “tohu vavohu/chaos and emptiness.” In addition it contains the letter shin hinting at the third word choshech/darkness.

Once the sinner realizes that he has lost his privilege to exist, he is ready to be created anew. It is at the point of this realization that the heavenly gate opens and he receives new life. This is the meaning of the piyut/liturgical poem which describes God as, “… haposei’ach sha’ar ledofkei bis’shuvah/… He opens the gate for penitents who knock on it.” This is based on a pasuk in Yechezkeil which describes the third Beis HaMikdash. The pasuk states that during the six days of the week the inner courtyard gate facing east will be closed. The gate of heaven is closed. God will open it though for those who knock; for those who realize that their sins have caused the gate, through which life and existence flows, to be closed to them.

The pasuk continues that on Shabbos the gate will be opened. For this reason, the Sfas Emes explains, it is easier to repent on Shabbos. The gate is already open. God gave us a tool to return to Him. He gave us Shabbos Teshuvah. Let us take advantage of this tool to return to Him.


Anonymous said...

Shkoyach as usual on a great post to open our eyes to the heiligeh Torah of the Rebbe - The Sfas Emes

Refoel said...

Yashar Koach! That was beautiful! It really inspires me. Thank you for sharing more Torah from the Heilige Sefas Emes zt"l. May Hashem help you to and enable you to spread more and more Torah for eternity.

Chag Sameach!