Teshuva from Love
One might think that the sin-offering, as important as it was for atonement,
would not be that holy to God. It was brought for accidental violations of
Negative Commandments, for which a person still bears some level of
responsibility, since accidents are usually the result of some kind of
For, as the Talmud says, everything is a function of Divine Providence
(Chullin 7b). So, even though we may accidentally do something wrong,
everything Heaven does is deliberate, and that includes allowing us to make
such errors. If Heaven wanted to, it could save a person from such
accidental mistakes, and even does on occasion.
So, then, why doesn’t Heaven do this all the time? For the same reason that
Pirkei Avos—Ethics of our Fathers—which focuses on character refinement, is
the section of Mishnah called Nezikin—Damages. It teaches us that we damage
others when we become desensitized to how our actions can result in such
damages, a process that Pirkei Avos was created to reverse.
This doesn’t mean that everything we do carelessly causes damage. But, it
certainly can, and often does, especially when Heaven decides that it is
time to re-sensitize a person. Hence, even an accidental sin is our
responsibility, which is why we must bring a sacrifice to atone for it.
Therefore, the question remains: Why is it so holy, if what caused it was
The answer has to do with what the Talmud states:
Rebi Yehudah bar Rebi Eloi elucidated: The Holy One, Blessed is He,
created two worlds, one with a Heh and one with a Yud. I do not know if the
World-to-Come was created with a Yud and This World with a Heh, or if This
World was with a Yud and the World-to-Come was with a Heh. But then it says,
“These are the generations of Heaven and Earth in the creating of
them—behibar-am . . .” (Bereishis 2:4); don’t read behibaram (i.e., in the
creating of them), but b’Heh baram (i.e., with a Heh they were created).
Thus we see that This World was created with a Heh and the World-to-Come was
created with a Yud. (Menachos 29b)
This is obviously Kabbalistic, and therefore, quite deep. Nevertheless, the
Talmud offers a simple explanation, albeit a conceptual one, as to why this
world was created with the letter Heh:
[The letter Heh] resembles an achsadra (a house open on one side). Whoever
wants to leave (i.e., sin) is able to do so. (Menachos 29b)
That is, the opening at the bottom of the Heh represents the opening through
which a sinner can fall. The Talmud continues:
Why is there another opening above the left leg [of the letter]? It is an
opening for those who will do teshuvah.
If the person merits to wake up to the reality of his sin, he can repent,
but only by elevating himself to the level of the opening above the leg of
the Heh, after which he can enter through that “window.” This prompts the
Talmud to ask another question:
Why can’t he enter from the same opening he left from?
and then answers:
He will not be able to, as Reish Lakish taught: One who wants to purify
himself needs God’s help . . .
Teshuvah is not an easy thing to do. To begin with, sins spiritually change
a person, and the more intentional they are, the more they blemish the
person. They break down a person’s spiritual resolve, necessitating Heavenly
intervention to allow them to fulfill their desire to do teshuvah.
All of this is indicated by the letter Heh. However, as the Talmud points
out, there is more to the letter Heh than meets the eye, unless one is
looking at a Heh inside of a Sefer Torah. So, the Talmud further asks, and
Why does the letter Heh have a crown? God will tie a crown to one who does
teshuvah. (Menachos 29b)
Thus, as much as God hates sin, He loves teshuvah. He doesn’t promote sin,
and warns against it. But, God certainly promotes teshuvah, and as the
Talmud revealed, even founded Creation on it. So, even though a sin offering
may be necessary for the wrong reasons, it is brought for the right reasons,
for the sake of teshuvah.
The following also helps to increase one’s appreciation of the miracle of
The Midrash relates that after Kayin killed his brother Hevel, his father,
Adam HaRishon, asked him, “What was your judgment?”
Kayin answered, “I did teshuvah, and the full impact of justice was not
applied to me.”
“Such is the power of teshuvah?!” Adam exclaimed. “I did not realize that by
doing teshuvah a person’s past misdeeds are erased so completely and
considered by God as if they had never taken place!” (Bereishis Rabbah 22:28).
How could Adam HaRishon not have known about the full impact of teshuvah?
As Rav Hutner explains, teshuvah is not natural, but rather, the result of
an elaborate process that includes much more than simply saying, “I’m sorry
for having sinned,” and promising to do better next time (Pachad Yitzchak,
Rosh Hashanah). In fact, the letter Heh refers to the second letter of God’s
ineffable Four-Letter Name, which, in turn, corresponds to the sefirah of
Binah, which means understanding.
Hence, teshuvah represents the transition to a higher level of
understanding, one that is profound enough to transform a person and make
him into a new person.
The gift, however, does not end here. According to Rav Tzadok HaKohen, Moshe
Rabbeinu, as part of his farewell address to the Jewish people, told them,
“You can accomplish something I could not accomplish in my lifetime, because
. . .”
. . . Through teshuvah, which is the 50th gate [of understanding], you can
cause the rectification [that I could not with all my pleading], since, “the
completely righteous cannot stand in the place of Ba’alei Teshuvah” (Brochos
34b). (Pri Tzaddik, VaEschanan 3)
The rabbis teach us that there are two main times of year that promote
teshuvah, during the period of time from Rosh Chodesh Elul until the end of
Yom Kippur, and this time of year, from Pesach until Shavuos. The difference
between the two is this: during the first period of time, it is fear of
punishment that drives us to do teshuvah, but at this time of year, it is
teshuvah from love.
It’s springtime and Pesach at the same time, both of which are times of
love. It is the time of year when the dead of winter transitions into the
life of spring, as the world is resurrected once again. As darkness gives
way to light, who isn’t inspired to love, and to do teshuvah?
It is an important opportunity, at an important time of history. I don’t
want to go into detail now, but the long and short of it is that we have an
Israeli government, for the first time in a long time, without a Charedi
party. For some that is cause for celebration, especially those who can’t
wait to see yeshivah buchurim taken from the Bais Midrash to the barracks of
the army. However, it is celebration that is likely to be short-lived,
because it will probably lead to war; it usually does.
Obviously, people have their personal opinions about the matter, and most
are not afraid to express them. Fine. I have mine too. However, what
concerns me is the larger picture, the one that goes beyond all of our
personal opinions; what worries me is what God feels about the situation,
something we usually don’t know until after He has responded through His
directing of history.
Like it or hate it, agree or dispute it, more than likely, having religious
Jews in the government was probably a merit for the government, and
therefore, for the Jewish people in general. They may not have always used
their positions well, or acted in ways that brought respect to the Torah
world, but still, they were a merit for the ruling party just by being
there. This was especially true when being part of the government enhanced
the learning of Torah and the performance of mitzvos.
The Leftists don’t get this because they don’t believe it is true; their
belief system does not allow for such a possibility. In fact, even some
Orthodox Jews have a tough time believing that God is still that actively
involved in history, and would respond so dramatically and so quickly to the
situation. This was predicted by some of the more Kabbalistic midrashim long
We’re in for a somewhat of rude awakening, and even that may be an
understatement. Therefore, we ought to do teshuvah now— from love, before we
are forced to do it out of fear. For anyone interested in knowing more about
the potential of the situation, and what to do about it, I have just
finished writing a book called, “Survival Guide For The End of Days,” which
you can order from my online store at www.thirtysix.org.
Given the direction of recent events, it is worth the read.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.