The Gates of Repentance
Having finished offering the 20 principles of teshuva (returning to G-d),
Rabbeinu Yonah now completes the first gate of "The Gates of Repentance" by
presenting us with a list of things that hinder teshuva.
It's important to note that we're told that G-d "never closes the door to
teshuva to us" no matter how unrighteous we've been; and that G-d will always
sympathize with us and be merciful. Nonetheless the stark truth of the matter
is that there are instances and situations in which teshuva will be
difficult-- though never impossible.
Rabbeinu Yonah advises us to be strong in those instances, though; to speak
to G-d and to others about the things we've done wrong, pray and plead for
forgiveness, and engage in the 20 principles of teshuva. You'll then be shown
mercy both in Heaven and on earth.
We'll now list the 24 instances Rabbeinu Yonah cites and offer comment on
just a few, for lack of space. You'll find it difficult to come to teshuva if
you engage in the following actions repeatedly and stubbornly:
"Rumor-mongering" and "slander"... because of all the complications and
people involved. After all, you'd have spoken ill of people unnecessarily,
word of that would have gotten out and their reputation would have been
besmirched, and their careers and lives might be unalterably affected. It
would indeed be very hard to undo that.
- fury ,
- thinking untoward thoughts,
associating with wrongdoers,
- regularly accepting food from those who don’t
- staring at instances of nudity,
- sharing in stolen
- saying, "I will sin (now) and then do tshuvah (later)",
achieving honor at another’s expense,
- separating yourself from the
- belittling your ancestors or teachers,
- cursing the
- preventing the masses from doing a mitzvah,
- causing another
to deviate from the path of good and to follow a bad one instead,
- using a
pauper's pledge for personal gain,
- taking a bribe to pervert justice,
finding a lost object and not returning it to its owner,
- seeing your
child going bad and not objecting,
- eating from the sustenance of paupers,
orphans and widows,
- arguing against the words of sages,
- hating criticism, and 24) maligning mitzvot.
"Associating with wrongdoers"... because you'd grow used to hearing them say
bad things and boasting of their untoward acts, and you'd find it hard to
withstand the social pressures to be accepting of them.
"Sharing in stolen property"... because you’d never know whom the goods were
stolen from, since you didn’t steal them yourself. So it would be very hard
to return them and make amends.
"Saying, 'I will sin (now) and then do tshuvah (later)'"... because while
teshuva will indeed undo sins, sinning with that expectation in mind from the
get-go and thus taking teshuva lightly will make it hard for you to truly
return to G-d, since you'd arrogantly assumed you could always get Him to
"Hating criticism"... because you'd hardly be likely to acknowledge your
errors and own up to your flaws if you couldn’t take criticism.
"Maligning mitzvot"... because mitzvot are G-d's guideposts in the world--
they indicate where He'd prefer you go and what you'd be best to do under all
circumstances. If you malign such things you're hardly likely to take
anything of import seriously, including your own lapses.
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