Online Torah

Beit Hamidrash

I Call Hashem to the Stand

By: Justin Kelman and Netanel Schondorf

" With Rosh Hashana behind us and Yom Kippur just around the corner, teshuva is the topic on everyone´s mind" Two students from overseas program writes a great assay about Tshuva.

     With Rosh Hashana behind us and Yom Kippur just around the corner, teshuva is the topic on everyone's mind. In the Rambam's Hilchot Teshuva, the Rambam explains that true teshuva involves cutting all bonds with one's sins and completely erasing them from one's mind. Furthermore, God himself will testify that the sinner will never again return to his evil ways. This is quite a cryptic statement. What does it mean for God to testify on your behalf? Moreover, how can God testify to such a bizarre claim? We routinely observe sinners "relapse" and return to their evil ways.

     The Kesef Mishneh explains that the person repenting must be so sure that he will never sin again, that he must be prepared to call upon God Himself as a witness to that effect. This furthers the question: How can God be considered a valid witness? We observe a similar phenomenon in Parashat Nitzavim, where the Heavens and the Earth are called upon to be witnesses of Bnei Yisrael's covenant with God. (Devarim 30: 19 "I [Moshe] call the Heavens and the Earth today to bear witness against you.")

     Perhaps teshuva is all about personal motivation.  Calling upon God as a witness can be a very powerful, and possibly scary, thing to do.  The Kesef Mishneh may be telling us that the very act of telling Hashem that we will never sin again can motivate us to be true to our word.  After all, we would never dare make a false promise to Hashem, the ultimate force behind the entire universe.  The concept of the world being our witness as described in Nitzavim can give us certain motivation as well.  In his explanation on the verse, Rashi shows how the Heavens and the Earth are role models for our behavior.  Throughout all of time, they never deviate from their character.  Moreover, when the world is meritorious and gives us produce, it does not receive reward; when the world is sinful and brings natural disasters, it does not receive punishment.  All the more so, we as human beings who do receive reward and punishment should not deviate from the perfection in which we were created.

     The explanations for each source are related superficially but not in essence.  The language used in both sources is too similar to be considered just somewhat connected.  Though feeling a bit inspired to never sin again is a nice idea, there might be something deeper going on here.  Hashem made the Earth itself a witness for His covenant with us, yet what happens if that covenant is broken?  We can speculate that the Heavens and the Earth are actually not only the witnesses but also the covenant itself.  The moment the Jewish people break our relationship with God, the world will cease to exist.  Therefore, by living in this world, we see evidence of the covenant all around us.  In addition, the goal of teshuva itself is to "return" to Hashem.  If we are close to Him, than we should feel Him inside of us all the time.  Thus God is evidence that we are doing teshuva and can then "testify" that we have abandoned our sins.  The Rambam is teaching us that we can only know that we have returned to Hashem is if we feel His presence, and God is teaching us that if we feel His presence than we can live and enjoy the world He has given us.