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Starting Block in T’shuva

Rabbi David Samson17 Cheshvan 5764
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Question
I have tried to become a baal t’shuva at two different times of my life, but each time, as soon as I start out, I feel overwhelmed by all of my wrongdoings. For all of my good intentions, I quickly run out of gas. Do you have any suggestions how I can get myself out of the starting block?
Answer
Once again, we will turn to the writings of Rabbi Kook for some practical advice. Basically, the process of t’shuva has two spheres of focus. One is redressing the transgressions of the past. The other is setting one’s life on a new course of positive behavior in the future.[1] Since it is easier to go forward than backward, one’s focus at the beginning of the journey should be improving the future, rather than unraveling the past. Rabbi Kook writes: “The foundation of t’shuva should always be established on the goal of improving the future… If a person would immediately start by rectifying the past, he would encounter many obstacles, and the path of t’shuva, and coming closet to G-d would seem too difficult. However, if a person truly endeavors to refine his future behavior, Divine assistance is promised, even in correcting transgressions of the past.”[2] For instance, if a person is a notorious speaker of lashon hora, speaking badly about other people, is easier to start out anew, being more careful about one’s words in the future, than to search after all of the people whom were injured by him in the past, and apologize for the damage he caused them. This project may seem so enormous, a would-be penitent could easily give up in despair at the start. Rabbi Kook’s advice is to start by improving the future, than set out to correct the accessible things from the past. This will set into motion a snowball of t’shuva whose momentum and Divine blessing will lead him to address more difficult matters until he succeeds in making amends for all of his wrongs.[3] 1. Orot HaT’shuva, 13:9B. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid, 13:6.
Rabbi David Samson is one of the leading English-speaking Torah scholars in the Religious-Zionist movement in Israel. He has co-authored four books on the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson learned for twelve years under the tutelage of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He served as Rabbi of the Kehillat Dati Leumi Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, and teaches Jewish Studies at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Institutions.
Tzvi Fishman was a successful Hollywood screenwriter before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984. He has co-authored several Torah works with Rabbi David Samson and written several books on Jewish/Israel topics.
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