The Gates of Repentance
Seventeenth Principle of Teshuva: EXPRESSING KINDNESS AND TRUTH
It wouldn't be enough for us to simply rectify the harm we'd done to others
in order to achieve spiritual excellence. We'd also need to foster a deeper
and fuller level of goodness and personal growth. The two areas of goodness
and growth Rabbeinu Yonah focuses upon at this point are kindness and truth.
The sort of kindness we're referring to here isn't simple "niceness" and
"pleasantness". It's rooted in a deeply-felt *need* to give, to ease
another's burden, and to love. As such, it's a worldly manifestation of an
immortal and transcendent inclination of the soul to be as kind and generous
as its Source.
And the kind of truth we're referring to isn't simple "honesty" and
"trustworthiness". It's *ultimate* truth, the full and actual facts about
G-d, about life's meaning, and about our relationship to both. Which is to
say, Torah and what it reveals to us. And the kind of participation in it
we're talking about doesn't only involve delving into Torah, but advocating
for it and supporting its teachers as well. After all, what person in pursuit
of spiritual excellence wouldn't want to support its very textbook--Torah--
and her teachers?
Then Rabbeinu Yonah seems to change gears, to our surprise. And to suggest
that some less-than-altruistic individuals might imagine that they could
somehow or another "make up" for past mistakes by being kind and championing
truth. As if G-d could be "bribed", if you will, and convinced to overlook
blemishes in our being in light of the fact that we also do good. We're told
that that's simply not so. But let's explain.
Each one of us is a melange of self-contradictory drives and elements, and no
one on this earth is all this or all that-- for the good or the bad. The
worst among us have their good points, and the best among us have their
flaws. Each drive and element takes on a life of its own, and each is to be
accounted for in the end.
So while I might be kind and support Torah, I might also lie, annoy my neigh
bors, etc.; and while I might gossip and be lax in my observance, I might
also offer a lot of charity, respect elders, etc. And each one of those
enters into a mix that G-d alone can analyze.
Since everything I am and do comprises my being, I couldn't hope to undo a
bad part of me by doing something good. I could only *supplement* the bad
with the good. I'd have to do teshuva and return to G-d for my errors and
wrongful ways in order to undo my bad parts. And that's Rabbeinu Yonah's
That's to say, expressing kindness and truth will not undo my errors. Teshuva
alone will. The expression of kindness and truth would allow me a "grace
period"-- an extended period of time to return to G-d before having to suffer
the consequences of not doing that. But, again, it does nothing to undo my
errors. And assuming otherwise only leads to a false sense of righteousness.
Subscribe to Spiritual Excellence and receive the class via e-mail.