Introduction to Gate Seven: "The Gate of Teshuvah"
We'll now delve into the greatest gift G-d has ever granted us after the
opportunity to serve Him, "teshuvah" (the ability to repent of our sins;
to turn to G-d once again after having turned away from Him; and to set
things gone wrong aright).
Our discussion of teshuvah comes on the heels of the last gate, which
concentrated upon being humble enough to submit to G-d's wishes, because
we can't possibly succeed in teshuvah until we're no longer arrogant and
self-assertive. After all, how can you admit you've been wrong when you're
always sure you're right?
Ibn Pakudah sees our need for teshuvah as self-evident. As he points out,
we're often "negligent when it comes to (our) duties to the Creator", as
each one of us knows only too well. For while we're preoccupied with and
serious about the minutiae of the passing day, we're woefully blase about
immortality and its own call.
We also need it because we humans are invariably "impulsive by nature, and
made up of many opposing elements, traits and motives." For as everyone
knows, we're "sometimes pleasant, other times objectionable; sometimes
criminal, other times righteous; and sometimes good, other times evil".
And besides, "there is no one that does not sin" (I Kings 8:46). So it's
clear we'd need to know as much as we can about teshuvah if we're ever to
achieve spiritual excellence.
Fortunately for us, as Ibn Pakudah puts it, G-d indeed "gave us the
ability to correct our mistakes and to return our lost service to Him
through teshuvah. He encouraged us in it, in His love and compassion for
us; urged us in it; promised things to us for it through His servants, the
prophets; exonerated us when we turned away from the path of service; and
promised to accept our excuses and welcome us at once, despite the
seriousness of our rebellions against His word".
So we'll now lay out the elements of teshuvah including just exactly what
it's comprised of, what encourages us to commit ourselves to it, what
holds us back from it, and some other practical pointers.