The Gates of Repentance
Last time, Rabbeinu Yonah revealed the great opportunity for spiritual
excellence that teshuva (returning to G-d) really is. This time he describes
the sorts of people who wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity. And we
find that there are two sorts.
The unlearned, whom Rabbeinu Yonah characterizes as "asleep, inert, and
oblivious". And individuals "so alienated from G-d that they don't believe
there are consequences to sinning", i.e., to spiritual mediocrity. He then
indicates that their opposite is the righteous Torah scholar who's *also*
liable to slip into spiritual mediocrity, but who's nonetheless sure to
quickly do teshuva. All this calls for explanation.
First off, there's unlearned, and there's unlearned. Most of us are learned,
which is to say, we're educated. But not all of us are scholars, nor are all
us are analytical or used to doing research. So in a certain sense, very many
of us could be said to relatively unlearned, or unscholarly.
But I dare say most of us aren't "asleep", which is to say, *unaware*. Most
of us aren't "inert", which is to say, *dull and blunt*. And certainly very
few of us are "oblivious", which is to say, *intellectually and emotionally
comatose*. So it's easy to assume that we'd likely be open to teshuva if we
knew enough about it and came to realize how important it was to our goal of
becoming spiritually excellent.
Still and all oftentimes, the truth be known, we're *kind of* asleep, inert,
and oblivious. And we overlook the chance to do teshuva.
Other times we catch ourselves being rather blase about the fact that our
actions have "real world" consequences-- that they affect our very beings as
well as others we love. Yet in our more sensitive moments we're certainly
capable of acknowledging this. And we either sit stunned and immobilized with
the realization of that; or we own up to our moral power, and use it for
goodness from then on.
Rabbeinu Yonah's point seems to be that when we are in fact *unaware* of the
effect we have on others (i.e., when we're "asleep"); when we're *dull and
blunt* when it comes to other people's feelings (i.e., when we're "inert");
and when we're *intellectually and emotionally comatose* (i.e., when we're
"oblivious")-- we're also *alienated from G-d*!
After all, our relationship to Him is said to mirror our relationship to
others. Consequently, if we're emotionally and spiritually alienated from
others, we're alienated from G-d too. And we'd be the sort of people who
wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to draw close to G-d that teshuva
Quite a daunting thought!
What are we to do then? As Rabbeinu Yonah indicated, we're to become
*learned*, i.e., we'd be wise to become serious, righteous students of Torah.
For while they too are only human, and they too are liable to err, they
invariably jump at the chance to do teshuva once they realize what they've
done. For their Torah studies constantly remind them of teshuva's ultimate
goals-- spiritual excellence and closeness to G-d.
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