Ask the Rabbi

  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • Repentance

Starting Block in T’shuva


Rabbi David Samson

17 Cheshvan 5764
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?
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.
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