OU Press is proud to join with Maggid Books in co-publishing Erica Brown’s sensitive and searching exploration of the world of teshuva.
For many, Maimonides’ classic, The Laws of Repentance, gives structure to the emotional, psychological, intellectual, and religious components of teshuva, and serves as a wellspring of understanding for teshuva. Dr. Brown includes selections from The Laws of Repentance in each chapter of this excellent book. In her Preface, she mentions the custom of studying one of the ten chapters of The Laws of Repentance on each day of Asseret Yemei Teshuva. Teshuva is a goal; it comes in stages, intermittently. Our daily study reflects this concept of teshuva as an incremental process. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the towering rabbinic authority of the twentieth century, notes this custom with approval in his Al HaTeshuva, and relates that his father, as well as his grandfather, the famed Rav Hayim of Brisk, studied one chapter of The Laws of Repentance on each day of Asseret Yemei Teshuva. Rabbi Soloveitchik speculates that the division of the work into ten chapters may well have been a deliberate allusion by Maimonides to the ten days of Asseret Yemei Teshuva.
Maimonides highlights the unique quality of Asseret Yemei Teshuva: “Even though any time is appropriate for teshuva and prayer, during the ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur teshuva is more appropriate, and it is accepted immediately.” In one of the most lyrical passages in all of halakhic literature, Maimonides describes the power of teshuva: “How wonderful teshuva is, that it brings one close to the Divine Presence. Teshuva brings close those who are far away. Only yesterday he was loathed by the Almighty, repulsive, distant, and despicable; and today he is beloved, pleasing, close, and dear…. How lofty and exalted is the power of teshuva. Only yesterday he was separated from the God of Israel, crying out to no avail, and today he cleaves to the Divine Presence, cries out, and is answered immediately.” It is this magical transformative gift of teshuva which Dr. Brown so effectively helps us grasp.
Erica Brown has had an exceptional impact on the Jewish scene. With her rare ability to convey the wisdom of our sages to a contemporary audience, she has raised an awareness of Jewish learning that is striking. We are indebted to her for this book, in which she gives us the tools to navigate the process of teshuva during the time between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, a time suffused with hope and promise.
We wish to thank Moshael and Zahava Straus and Daniel and Joyce Straus for their generous sponsorship of this book.
General Editor, OU Press