Beit Midrash

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

Don't Worry! Be Happy!


Rabbi David Samson

Av 5768
Amongst the many eye-opening revelations on tshuva in Rabbi Kooks writings, one concept is especially staggering in its profundity. It is such a new understanding, we have decided to devote a separate short chapter to it, to highlight its importance to the reader. Usually, we think that a process is completed when it reaches its end. We experience a feeling of satisfaction when we finish a project. An underlying tension often accompanies our work until it is accomplished. This is because the final goal is considered more important than the means.

Most people feel the same way about tshuva. Until the process of tshuva is complete, they feel unhappy, anxious, overwhelmed with the wrongdoings which they have been unable to redress. Rabbi Kook tells us that this perspective is wrong. When it comes to tshuva, the goal is not the most important thing. It is the means which counts. What matters the most is the striving for perfection, for the striving for perfection is perfection itself.

If not for the contemplation of tshuva, and the comfort and security which come with it, a person would be unable to find rest, and spiritual life could not develop in the world. Mans moral sense demands justice, goodness, and perfection. Yet how very distant is moral perfection from mans actualization, an dhow feeble he is in directing his behavior toward the pure ideal of absolute justice. How can he aspire to that which is beyond his reach? For this, tshuva comes as a part of mans nature. It is tshuva which perfects him. If a man is constantly prone to transgress, and to have difficulties in maintaining just and moral ideals, this does not blemish his perfection, since the principle foundation of his perfection is the constant longing and desire for perfection. This yearning is the foundation of tshuva, which constantly orchestrates mans path in life and truly perfect shim.

Dear reader, please note: if you are not yet a Tzaddik, you need not be depressed. Success in tshuva is not measured by the final score at the end of the game. It is measured by the playing. The striving for good is goodness itself. The striving for atonement is atonement. The striving for perfection is what perfects, in and of itself.

King Solomon teaches that no man is sin free. Transgression is part of the fabric of life. Since we are a part of this world, we too are subject to system failure or sin. For there is not a just man on earth that does good and never sins. Even the righteous occasionally succumb to temptation. Thus, until the days of Mashiach,7 an ideal, sinless existence is out of mans reach.

An illustration may help make this concept clearer. On Yom Kippur, we are like angels. We don't eat, we don't drink. All day long we pray for atonement from all of our sins. At the end of the day, with the final blast of the Shofar, we are cleansed.But in the very next moment, as we pray the evening service,we once again ask G-d to forgive us. Forgive us for what? The whole day we have acted like angels. Our sins were whitened as snow.8 In the few seconds between the end of Yom Kippur and the evening prayer, what sin did we do? Maybe at the beginning of the evening prayer, exhausted by the fast, we didn't concentrate on our words. Maybe our prayers on Yom Kippur were half hearted. Maybe, we forgot to ask forgiveness for some of our sins.

The point is that the process of tshuva never ends. Perfection in deeds is out of our reach. Thus, when a goal is unattainable, it is the striving to reach the goal that counts. Regarding tshuva, it is the constant striving for tshuva which purifies, enlightens, elevates, and perfects. So relax all you seekers of tshuva. Even if you haven't yet atoned for all of your sins,DON'T WORRY. BE HAPPY. As long as you are sincerely trying,that is what really counts.
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