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Rosh Hashana: Types of Teshuva

In Orot HaTeshuva 11, Rav Kook describes two types of Teshuva - sudden Teshuva and gradual Teshuva


Rabbi Shimon Cohen

Elul 26 5781

Sudden Teshuva and Gradual Teshuva

In Orot HaTeshuva 11, Rav Kook describes two types of Teshuva - sudden Teshuva and gradual Teshuva - and this is how sudden Teshuva is described:

"It comes suddenly from some sort of spiritual radiance that enters the soul. In one moment the person recognizes the evil and ugliness of sin and becomes a different person, and immediately feels within him a complete change for the better. This Teshuva comes via some manifestation of an inner virtue, via a great spiritual influence, whose paths are worth seeking in the valleys of mystery."

There is also a system of gradual Teshuva, as described below:

"And there is gradual Teshuva - not a light that shines from within a person bringing him from the depths of evil to good, but rather he feels that he needs to be bettering his ways and his lifestyle, his will, his thoughts, and throughout this he slowly slowly conquers the paths of honesty, corrects character traits, betters his actions, teaches himself how to communicate more and more, until he rises a level of purification and correction."

This can be likened to the relationship between miracle and nature. The miracle comes from above suddenly and crumbles the systems, while nature develops very slowly.

Teshuva that comes from above shines like lightening, illuminates the human soul for a brief moment and then goes away. What is caught remains and what escapes disappears. In contrast, there is gradual Teshuva, that develops in Man's psyche very slowly and builds within him floor after floor. 

At the same time, Teshuva from above is limitless. G-d pours on us an abundance of light and blessing, while Teshuva from below is human and limited. When our vessel deserves it, we are able to gain much more when Teshuva comes from above, but it often happens that the great enlightenment that comes upon us from on high does not find worthy vessels to contain it, and so gradual Teshuva that is built very slowly is better according to the containing ability of the person as he is now.

When we left Egypt and saw great miracles daily, it did not keep our guard from falling, because we were not yet competent and worthy of the abundance of light that was affected upon us from on high. Thus we find several examples of falling in spite of the parting of the sea, the descent of the mann, Miriam's well, the giving of the Torah, etc.

In its time quickly

It is said in the Book of Prophets on the redemption of Israel: "I G-d in its time quickly" 16, to teach us that there is redemption that comes from below through effort and the Teshuva of Israel, slowly slowly, and there is redemption that comes from the Heavens, "Spell 'in its time' and spell 'quickly'! They merited - quickly and they did not merit - in its time" 17.And it is brought in the name of the Gra 18 that we can hasten the redemption even when it comes in its time.

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