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The weeks of שובבים— שמות, וארא,
בא, בשלח, יתרו, משפטים—are a special period to
do Teshuva and as it says שובו בנים שובבים, do Teshuva my wayward sons.
In fact, שובבים is rooted in the word שובה. שובבים is rooted in שובב which is an acronym for שמחים בצאתם וששים בבואם, happy when they leave
and come, as שובבים is a happy time because we can attain
atonement for our sins. Rabbeinu Chananel
(990-1053) says that the statement of Chazal of Teshuva is so great that it
reaches the כסא הכבור refers to sin that reaches the כסא הכבור. Teshuva can gain atonement even for such sins.
The Pasuk states מושל באדם צדיק מושל יראת אלה-ים,
become a ruler over men, a righteous one, who rules through the fear of Hashem.
R’ Tzadok Hakohen quotes a most astounding interpretation of his Rebbe, the
מושל באדם צדיק—one can rule over the Tzadik R’ Shimon Bar Yochai who said
Teshuva doesn’t help for פגם הברית. That is, don’t listen to this and do
Teshuva anyway! Furthermore, מושל יראת אלה-ים, one can do Teshuva even
if Hashem says Teshuva won’t help. If one does Teshuva in such a situation it
will be accepted! This is in line with the explanation of the Shela inכל מה שיאמר לך בעל הבית עשה חוץ מצא,
whatever the host tells you, do, except when he says “go out.” The same applies to life that we must listen
to Hashem except when He says צא. What about in the case
of אחר where he heard a בת קול that said return wayward
sons except for אחר?
That itself was the test meaning not to listen to the בת קול and do Teshuva anyway.
says שובו בנים שובבים חוץ מאחר, return wayward sons except for אחר. This can also be
understood that during these days of שובבים there is an opening for
teshuva even to one who already did damage (פגם) and is called אחר and are חוץ, outside the sanctuary of Kedusha.
The Mishna states האומר אחטא ואשוב...אין מספיקין..., one who says I will sin and then do
Teshuva…he is not given the opportunity to do Teshuva.
R’ Pinchas Koritzer interprets this in a different light: at times one may say
why should I do Teshuva since I know I will sin again (אחטא ואשוב).
Yet, if this person says I will do what is in my power and do Teshuva, then אין מספיקין,
there is no doubt he can do Teshuva and in the end he will ascend to great
So, one who says if he sins he will do Teshuva…no matter how many times he
sins, then there is no doubt—אין מספיקין, that he will succeed in
The following incredible
account is recorded in the Sefer Taamai Haminhagim.
A רשע גמור, completely wicked person once jokingly asked R’ Moshe De-Leoin
(1240 – 1305) if there is any remedy for his sins. He was told the only
atonement is to accept upon yourself the judgement of death as an atonement for
your sins. He then asked if he does that, will he receive a portion in Gan Eden
to which the answer was yes. He asked R’ Moshe to swear to him that he should
have a place in Gan Eden in his vicinity. And so he swore to him. Among other
things, this רשע was then blindfolded and was told to
confess his sins to Hashem and accept upon himself the yoke of Hashem
completely in addition to accepting upon himself death in exchange for his
sins. He followed the procedure and he wept bitterly. There was a gathering of
elderly and Talmidei Chachamim there and they said he should open his mouth and
we will throw some lead so that he will die. He then opened his mouth in
compliance with this without objection. Then a full spoonful of honey was
thrown into his mouth and the Pasuk וסר עונך
your iniquity is removed and your sin eliminated, was recited. The Baal Teshuva
screamed bitterly, Rebbi ‘why did you deceive me, kill me and I won’t see my
destruction. Why should I desire to live after all the sins I’ve done?’ R’
Moshe said don’t fear because Hashem has already accepted your actions. From
that time onward he didn’t stop learning and for the remainder of his life he
did Teshuva. His Rebbi, R’ Moshe, eventually died. The Baal Teshuva cried
bitterly that his Rebbi was taken and he davened that he should follow suit
since he now had no Rebbi to guide him. Hashem heard his Tefila and he fell
ill. When his death was imminent he began to scream ‘…I am coming to fulfill my
Rebbi’s oath.’ He then died. After he died many
elders and greats saw through a dream how this Baal Teshuva was sitting next to
his Rebbi in Gan Eden learning together with him!
It is written in the Sefer
that if one finds it difficult to do Teshuva for example from a type of theft
or the like, if he takes upon himself all the essentials and conditions of
Teshuva within his power and ability, Hashem pardons him. If one injured his
friend’s reputation, Hashem will kindle feelings of goodwill and friendship in
the heart of his friend so that he will forgive him. If one doesn’t know who he
wronged or the amount of money embezzled, Hashem will enable him to contribute
money to projects for general welfare such as building bridges…
To what extent does one need to do Teshuva? שובה ישראל עד ה' אלה-יך—one needs to do Teshuva until he realizes that
only Hashem rules the world.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under
the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He
received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on
numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife
and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches.
The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
Yoma 86b, s.v. גדולה. R’ Chananel died in 1055
in Tunisia, leaving over 9 daughters (he had no sons). In addition to his
commentary which is printed on the side of the Gemara, he also wrote a
commentary on the Torah. In his profession, he was a successful businessman
which led him to great wealth.
Pri Tzadik, Vayigash 3, p.
Chagiga 15a. The Midrash
(Devarim Rabba 2:12) says that the gates of Teshuva are always opened.
Yoma 85b. The Tanya explains
this to mean that Hashem doesn’t help the sinner giving him the auspicious
occasion—שעת הכושר—for Teshuva. However, he
can still do Teshuva (Tanya Chapter 25). See Rambam, Hilchos Teshuva 4:6.
At an Alcoholics Anonymous
meeting, someone once said that the man I was, drank, but not the man I am
Shaar HaTeshuva, chapter 10.
It was with the Sefer Chovas Halvavos that the Chassam Sofer would start his
Gemara Shiur with. This Sefer was originally written in Arabic.