Beit Midrash

  • The Art of T'shuva
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter Eight

Thoughts Make The Man


Rabbi David Samson

Av 5768

Rabbi Kook teaches that even contemplations of Tshuva have significant value. To understand this, we must look at life with a different orientation than we are used to. Usually, we are pragmatists. We judge the value of things by the influence they have on the world. For instance, ten dollars is worth more than five dollars because it can buy more. A doctorate is better than a bachelors degree because it can lead to a better paying and more prestigious job.

There are things, however, that have an absolute value, irregardless of their tangible impact in this world. Truth is an example. Holiness is another. To this list, Rabbi Kook adds good thoughts. Contemplations of tshuva, even if they do not lead to a resulting change in behavior, bring benefit to the individual and the world.

This is similar to the question in the Talmud which is greater, Torah study or good deeds? The answer is Torah study because it leads to good deeds. You might think that if the ultimate goal is the deeds, then they would be more important.But our Sages tell us that the thought processes which lead tithe deeds is of primary concern. Being immersed in Torah has an absolute value in itself.

The thought of tshuva transforms all transgressions and the darkness they cause, along with their spiritual bitterness and stains, into visions of joy and comfort, for it is through these contemplations that a person is filled with a deep feeling of hatred for evil, and the love of goodness is increased within him with a powerful force.

Tshuva can be dissected into two different realms. There is the nutty-gritty tshuva of mending an actual deed, and there is the thought process which precedes the action. The value of these thoughts is not to be measured according to the activities which they inspire. For instance, a person may decide that he wants to be righteous. But when the person tries to translate this thought into action, he finds himself overwhelmed. To be righteous, he has to get up early in the morning to pray. He has to stop doing a host of forbidden deeds. He has to watch what he says, and watch what he eats. Before he even begins, his Willis broken. Though his wish to do tshuva was sincere, couldn't find the inner strength to actualize his thoughts into deeds.

Rabbi Kook says that all is not lost. This persons original idea to do tshuva stemmed from the deepest recesses of the soul, where it was inspired by the spiritual waves of tshuva which encircle the world. Thus he has already been touched Batsheva's cleansing streams. In effect, he has boarded the boat.Though his will may be weak at the moment, his soul is longing for G-d.

Through the contemplations of tshuva, a person hears the voice of G-d calling him from the Torah and from the heart,from the world and all it contains. The will for good is fortified within him. The body itself, which causes transgression, becomes more and more purified until the thought of tshuva pervades it.

In the beginning of his tshuva journey, a person must realize the absolute value of his initial inspiration. He has to Fonda new way of judging the value of things, not always looking for concrete benefits or results. When a person under takes tshuva, his thoughts weigh as much as his deeds. Tshuva is not just a process of dos and dints, but rather a conscious and subconscious overhaul of an individuals thought processes an demotions. Already by thinking about tshuva one is engaged inti.

Even the thought of tshuva brings great healing. However,the soul can only find full freedom when this potential tshuva is actualized. Nonetheless, since the contemplation is bound up with the longing for tshuva, there is no cause for dismay. G-d will certainly provide all of the means necessary for complete repentance, which brightens all darkness with its light... A broken and contrite heart, O G-d, Thou will not despise.

When we recognize the value of our thoughts, we discover very encouraging concept. One needn't despair when confronted by the often difficult changes which tshuva demands.This is especially true in the initial stages before a persons increasing love for G-d makes all difficulties and sacrifices seem small. Even if a person cannot immediately redress all of his wrongdoings, he should know that there is a great value in just wanting to be good. One can take comfort that he wants to be a better person. With G-ds help, he will also be able to actualize his yearnings. But in the meantime, just thinking good thought sis already strengthening his inner self and the world.

This is also why tshuva can come in a second. Just the thought of tshuva is tshuva itself. Thoughts of tshuva are themselves uplifting. The actual mending of activities is only a second stage. This knowledge can give a person the strength to continue through difficult times.

To the extent that someone is aware of his transgressions,the light of tshuva shines lucidly on his soul. Even if at the moment, he lacks the steadfastness to repent in his heart and will,the light of tshuva hovers over him and works to renew his inner self. The barriers to tshuva weaken in strength, and the blemishes they cause are diminished to the degree that the person recognizes them and longs to erase them. Because of this, the light of tshuva starts to shine on him, and the holiness of the transcendental joy fills his soul. Gates which were closed open before him, and in the end, he will achieve the exalted rung where all obstacles will be leveled. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.

A few examples may help illustrate this idea. Individual tshuva includes rectifying transgressions and improving character traits. Lets suppose that Joseph has stolen money from Reuven who lives two thousand miles away. At the moment,even though Joseph wants to return the money, he is unable to make the trip. This is a barrier to tshuva. Or in a case where Reuven lives just across the street, it may be that Joseph is too embarrassed to admit his theft. Until he strengthens his will to do tshuva, musters his inner courage, and swallows his pride,Josephs tshuva will be delayed. Regarding character traits,lets say that Joseph is an angry person. He is angry at his parents, at his wife and children, he is angry at his boss and at the neighbor down the street. It may take a considerable amount of introspection, and a serious course of Torah study, before he can transform his anger into love. But even if this barrier should seem insurmountable to him, he should take comfort in knowing that once the process of tshuva has started, G-ds help is ever near.

When a person truly longs for tshuva, he may be prevented by many barriers, such as unclear beliefs, physical weakness, or the inability to correct wrongs which he has inflicted on other people. The barrier may be considerable, and the person will feel remorse because he understands the weighty obligation to perfect his ways, in the most complete manner possible. However, since his longing for tshuva is firm, even if he cannot immediately overcome all of the obstacles, he must know that the desire for tshuva itself engenders purity and holiness, and not be put off by barriers which stand in his way.He should endeavor to seize every spiritual ascent available to him, in line with the holiness of his soul and its holy desire.

In dealing with his anger, it may be that Joseph lacks the determination or courage to have a heart-to-heart talk with his boss. Or perhaps, he is afraid of losing his job. So let him begin with his parents or wife. With each step he takes, he will find greater courage for the stages ahead. And if his Pandora's Box of anger is too threatening for him to open at all, let him turn to redress other matters more in his reach, with the faith that more complete tshuva will come.

One must strengthen ones faith in the power of tshuva,and feel secure that in the thought of tshuva alone, one perfects himself and the world. After every thought of tshuva, a person will certainly feel happier and more at peace than he had in the past. This applies even more if one is determined to do tshuva,and if he has made a commitment to Torah, its wisdom, and tithe fear of G-d. The highest joy comes when the love of G-pulses through his being. He must comfort himself and console his outcast soul, and strengthen himself in every way he can, for the word of G-d assures, As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.

If he discovers sins he committed against others, and his strength is too feeble to correct them, one should not despair at all, thinking that tshuva cannot help. For the sins which he has committed against G-d and repented over, they have already been forgiven. Thus, it should be viewed that the sins which are lacking atonement are outweighed by the tshuva he was able to do. Still, he must be very careful not to transgress against anyone, and he must strive with great wisdom and courage to address all of the wrongs from the past, Deliver thyself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the Fowler. However, let depression not overcome him because of the things he was unable to redress. Let him rather strengthen himself in the fortress of Torah, and in the service of G-d, with all of his heart, in happiness, reverence,and love.

Even though a person has not yet been able to rectify every wrong against his fellow man, every thought of tshuva has inestimable value. Even the minutest measure of tshuva awakens in the soul, and in the world, a great measure of holiness.The difficulty in mending the transgressions of the past should never bring a person to despair. For even if the thought of tshuva is still undeveloped, even if ones desire to do good contains a mixture of unrefined motives, Rabbi Kook assures us that its basic inner holiness is worth all of the wealth in the world.
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