This week’s Parsha is Parshas Haazinu. It is also called Shabbos Shuva. This name is given for it being the Shabbos of Teshuva – repentance, where the Haftora begins with the word “Shuva”. As we prepare for Yom Kippur we must focus on the concept of Teshuva, and understand what we really are trying to do.
Obviously, if we are repenting, we are making a change. We recognize that we have done something wrong, express our regret, and accept not to repeat it. Yet, change is not easy. Rav Yisroel Salanter is quoted as saying that it is easier to learn the entire Talmud than to change even one character trait. Realizing this, change is not something we can realistically do overnight. What then is the possibility for making a serious change on Yom Kippur?
In a most moving and amazing statement, Rav Salanter explains how repentance and change is possible for every Jew on most of the areas in life that need correcting. He bases this on a simple statement that the Talmud makes regarding the mitzvah or commandment of tzitzis. The tzitzis that we are supposed to wear on all four cornered garments have two types of strings that are put on them: One is purple (Techailes) and one is white. The techailes – purple strings are very expensive, as it was made with a dye that was very hard to produce. The white strings, on the other hand, were very inexpensive to produce. The Talmud says that if a person did not wear tzitzis when they had to, they get more punishment for not wearing the white strings than for not wearing the purple strings. Why? Isn’t this all the same mitzvah? The idea the Talmud is teaching us, is that when it is easier to do a mitzvah and we don’t do it, we are punished more than when it is hard. Based on this, Rav Salanter explains, we have to look at every situation in doing the mitzvohs. If we could accept on ourselves to keep each mitzvah when it is easy, we will already have done teshuva on most of the sin!!!
For example: A person should put some time to study each day. However, a person has a challenge with all their daily obligations, work,… Although the truth is that they should never the less make the time, it is a mitigating factor. On Shabbos and Sunday,, however, a person has more time. If at least we accept to give set time to study and be in the Synagogue then, then we have done Teshuva on the moments when it is easier to keep this mitzvah.
Similarly, we have to avoid saying lashan hara, evil gossip, about someone else. This is true regardless whether we initiate the conversation or someone else does. However, it is certainly easier to avoid starting such a conversation than to strop someone else. If we accept to avoid starting such conversations, we have done Teshuva on most of the sin of Loshon Hara!!!
This is true with every commandment in the Torah. If we can accept on ourselves to keep them when they are easy, we have taken an amazing step that can be considered repentance for most of the sin. While our goal is certainly to keep all the commandments in all situations, this is an amazing step to that goal and a most special accomplishment. This opens the door to true meaningful repentance for every Jew, on every level.