The Shabbos (Sabbath) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbos Shuva (return). This Shabbos offers us a unique opportunity to focus on teshuva (repentance) in a way we cannot during the rest of the week. What are the mechanics of teshuva?
Our Sages teach us that when one does teshuva out of fear of G-d, then the sins he transgressed intentionally are viewed as if they were committed accidentally, but if one repents from a love of G-d, then his previous sins become transformed to merits for him. How does this work? One of the greatest manifestations of G-d’s love for His children is His desire to accept our repentance and overlook our wrongdoing. But why does He view them in a positive light afterwards and why is this perspective unique to when the teshuva was done out of ahava (love)?
Michtav Me’Eliyahu (collected writings and discourses of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1891-1954) of London and B’nai Brak, one of the outstanding personalities and thinkers of the Mussar movement) explains that one of the main components of teshuva is remorse. When a person genuinely regrets his past deeds and repents out of fear, he acquires a new perspective of life: he stops to think about the greatness and awesomeness of G-d and the impropriety of violating His will. As this perspective develops and his outlook changes, he will now view his past transgression as accidental. He simply did not grasp the ramifications of his actions; had he, he would have never done them.
But teshuva out of love is different. True love is about giving. By definition, we cannot give anything to G-d, but the closest thing we can do is appreciate and express our gratitude for all He does for us. When someone develops his appreciation for the vastness of the array of G-d’s constant giving – from the dozen involuntary breaths he takes every minute of every hour of every day to the breathtaking sunrise he witnessed this morning – he fortifies his love relationship with his Creator. Thus, when he contemplates his past misdeeds and realizes that, despite them, G-d continues His abundant benevolence, his gratitude is multiplied. The repentance borne of this sentiment is much more profound and builds an even greater bond. The development of this greater love is a result of the misdeed, so his repentance actually turned those misdeeds into something positive in generating a closer relationship with G-d.
Shabbos is designed specifically to allow us time each week to appreciate G-d and what He does for us. There is a specific mitzvah (commandment) to eat tasty foods that we do not have throughout the rest of the week to allow us to focus on His magnificent benevolence. Capitalizing on these opportunities to develop our consciousness of G-d’s love for us will facilitate our return to Him out of love. Thus, Shabbos Shuva offers a unique prospect for an elevated sense of gratitude to turn our misdeeds into merits.
Good Shabbos! May we all be sealed for a sweet year of peace, health and prosperity!
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig and Project Genesis, Inc.