There's a single hidden, deep, very private element in our being that
enables each one of us to choose between doing good or wrongful things:
our free will. We'd discussed it before and we'll come to it again further
on in other contexts, but it's important to understand it in the following
one. As Rambam puts it, "In truth, everyone is capable of being as
righteous as Moses or as wicked as Jereboam". That is, we have it within
us to be as great or as lowly as we ourselves choose to be, thanks to our
Indeed, "no one forces, decrees, or draws a person in either direction. He
alone, of his own volition consciously inclines himself in the direction
he so chooses". And as such, "it follows that a sinner alone brings harm
upon himself", no one else. The point is that since we're answerable to no
one else's proddings if we sin and do harm, we'd need to take self in hand
and repent if we'd gone off.
Just realize how great repenting is, though. For, "the very person who,
just yesterday, was completely separated from the G-d of Israel" because
he'd turned his back on Him defiantly, "who would cry out and go
unheeded ... who would do mitzvot, and have them rent from his hands"
because of his bad choices, who'd then turn around and change his way "is
now attached to G-d" instead. Indeed, "his cries are answered immediately"
instead, "and (all of) his mitzvot are received easily and happily ... and
are even yearned for!" because he'd repented.
That being so, we should find out just how to regain our spiritual
standing and repent. But not so fast. Because there are quite a number of
things we'd have to tend to before we could even start to repent. For as
Rambam tells it, "There are twenty-four things that (are likely to) thwart
repentance"; and as any sensitive soul knows, most of us tend to lapse
into some of them all the time. So let's see what they come to.
Among several others, what holds us back from repenting includes being in
the habit of (in Rambam's words) "causing many to sin, inclining someone
away from the path of goodness onto the path of wrongdoing", "isolating
yourself from the community, arguing against the words of the sages,
mocking the mitzvot (or) one's teachers, hating criticism", "cursing the
multitude", "using another's personal failings to one's own advantage,
casting aspersions upon people with good reputations", as well as "tale
bearing, slandering, being hot tempered, arousing evil thoughts, and
associating with wicked people".
Not only is that true, but we're to always bear in mind that we're not to
repent "for concrete transgressions, like promiscuity, robbery, or theft,
alone." For "just as a person has to repent for those sorts of sins,"
Rambam says emphatically, we also have to repent for unbecoming personal
traits like "anger, hostility, envy, sarcasm, the pursuit of wealth or
glory, the pursuit of food, etc." So there's clearly a lot to do.
But let's turn next to the ultimate reward due those who thus draw close
to G-d indeed, and the actual process of repenting.