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Tuesday, October 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Yom Kippur

One of the more popular study materials for the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah is Rambam's Hilchos Teshuvah, an entire section devoted to the various laws pertaining to teshuvah. In it, he defines complete teshuvah as follows: If one is presented with the identical scenario in which he previously sinned, with the ability to sin once again but removes himself and prevents himself from sinning for the sake of teshuvah and not out of fear or weakness. What is puzzling, though, is that this definition is not given until the second chapter.


The first chapter begins with a focus on viduy, the confession of sin. Rambam proves from pesukim that the confession of one's sins is a full-fledged mitzvah in the Torah. Why is it that the viduy is such an integral part of teshuvah that it constitutes the mitzvah aspect and is expounded upon by Rambam before the full definition of teshuvah is taught?


I actually had an inspiration on this matter from, believe it or not, the world of politics. We of course find ourselves in the middle of yet another hard-fought political campaign. As with most campaigns, much time is spent discussing certain things that candidates might have done or said in the past that they might regret. I've always found it astounding how seldom you find a genuine apology in such cases. I would have thought that when a politician is backed against a wall having fallen into disfavour for something he's said or done, the most honourable thing he could do is come out and admit he was wrong and apologize. But instead, you tend to see all sorts of political tapdancing - mincing words to somehow deceive the public into thinking there's been some sort of misunderstanding. And of course, there's the ever-insincere "I'm sorry if I offended anyone," which ultimately means "I'm not sorry I did it, I'm just sorry I got in trouble for it."


But I'm no political guru. So it can't be that I've discovered something that everyone else has failed to see. If I'm right, though, why is that so many are so incapable of a full apology? We are certainly not dealing in the realm of the righteous in this regard but nonetheless, it has led me to realize that by human nature, it is so incredibly difficult to admit that one has done something wrong. So much so, that even when the benefits of an admission or apology are so blatantly clear, one can find himself unable to do so. As such, confession presents the single greatest challenge in the teshuvah process. When Rambam defines teshuvah in Chapter 2, that is merely defining the point at which one is able to declare "Mission Accomplished!" It is the point at which the teshuvah is a complete success. But the mitzvah involved in teshuvah and the most difficult and most crucial component is in fact the viduy, confession, and that is why it takes centre-stage in Rambam's Hilchos Teshuvah.


Gmar Chasimah Tovah and Good Yom Tov

Eliezer Bulka


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