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בס"ד

ELI Talks: Mark Borovitz

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  1. (א) אֵי זוֹ הִיא תְּשׁוּבָה גְּמוּרָה. זֶה שֶׁבָּא לְיָדוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁעָבַר בּוֹ וְאֶפְשָׁר בְּיָדוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ וּפֵרַשׁ וְלֹא עָשָׂה מִפְּנֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה. לֹא מִיִּרְאָה וְלֹא מִכִּשְׁלוֹן כֹּחַ. כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁבָּא עַל אִשָּׁה בַּעֲבֵרָה וּלְאַחַר זְמַן נִתְיַחֵד עִמָּהּ וְהוּא עוֹמֵד בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ בָּהּ וּבְכֹחַ גּוּפוֹ וּבַמְּדִינָה שֶׁעָבַר בָּהּ וּפָרַשׁ וְלֹא עָבַר זֶהוּ בַּעַל תְּשׁוּבָה גְּמוּרָה. הוּא שֶׁשְּׁלֹמֹה אָמַר (קהלת יב-א) "וּזְכֹר אֶת בּוֹרְאֶיךָ בִּימֵי בְּחוּרֹתֶיךָ". וְאִם לֹא שָׁב אֶלָּא בִּימֵי זִקְנוּתוֹ וּבְעֵת שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת מַה שֶּׁהָיָה עוֹשֶׂה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּשׁוּבָה מְעֵלָּה מוֹעֶלֶת הִיא לוֹ וּבַעַל תְּשׁוּבָה הוּא. אֲפִלּוּ עָבַר כָּל יָמָיו וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה בְּיוֹם מִיתָתוֹ וּמֵת בִּתְשׁוּבָתוֹ כָּל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו נִמְחָלִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (קהלת יב-ב) "עַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֶחְשַׁךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְהָאוֹר וְהַיָּרֵחַ וְהַכּוֹכָבִים וְשָׁבוּ הֶעָבִים אַחַר הַגֶּשֶׁם" שֶׁהוּא יוֹם הַמִּיתָה. מִכְּלָל שֶׁאִם זָכַר בּוֹרְאוֹ וְשָׁב קֹדֶם שֶׁיָּמוּת נִסְלַח לוֹ:

    (1) What is complete teshuvah? When a person has the opportunity to commit the same sin, and he possess the ability to do it, but he separates and does not do it because of teshuvah and not out of fear or lack of strength. What is an example? A person who had illicit sex with a woman, and after some time he is alone with her, and he still loves her and possesses his physical power and is in the same country where he committed the sin, but he separates and does not sin – that person is a complete ba’al teshuvah, about whom [King] Solomon said, Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). And if a person only does teshuvah in the days of old age, when it is not possible to do what he once did, even though this is not the highest teshuvah, it is effective and that person is a ba’al teshuvah. Even if a person sinned all his days and did teshuvah on the day of his death and died in his teshuvah, all his sins are forgiven, as it says, Before the sun is darkened, and the light of the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain (Ecclesiastes 12:2), which is the day of death. This implies that if he remembers his Creator and does teshuvah before he dies, he is forgiven.

  2. (ב) וּמַה הִיא הַתְּשׁוּבָה. הוּא שֶׁיַּעֲזֹב הַחוֹטֵא חֶטְאוֹ וִיסִירוֹ מִמַּחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ וְיִגְמֹר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲשֵׂהוּ עוֹד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נה-ז) "יַעֲזֹב רָשָׁע דַּרְכּוֹ" וְגוֹ'. וְכֵן יִתְנַחֵם עַל שֶׁעָבַר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה לא-יח) "כִּי אַחֲרֵי שׁוּבִי נִחַמְתִּי". וְיָעִיד עָלָיו יוֹדֵעַ תַּעֲלוּמוֹת שֶׁלֹּא יָשׁוּב לְזֶה הַחֵטְא לְעוֹלָם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע יד-ד) "וְלֹא נֹאמַר עוֹד אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ" וְגוֹ'. וְצָרִיךְ לְהִתְוַדּוֹת בִּשְׂפָתָיו וְלוֹמַר עִנְיָנוֹת אֵלּוּ שֶׁגָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ:

    (2) What is teshuvah? It is when a person abandons the sin that he sinned and removes it from his thoughts and commits in his heart that he will not do it again, as it says, The wicked should abandon his path etc. (Isaiah 55:7). And also that he regrets sinning, as it says, After I returned I regretted (Jeremiah 31:18). And the One Who Knows Hidden Things testifies about him that he will never return to this sin, as it says, And we will no longer call the work of our hands “god” etc. (Hosea 14:4). And he must confess verbally and say these things that he has committed in his heart.

  3. (א) כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִבְּנֵי הָאָדָם יֵשׁ לוֹ זְכֻיּוֹת וַעֲוֹנוֹת. מִי שֶׁזְּכֻיּוֹתָיו יְתֵרוֹת עַל עֲוֹנוֹתָיו צַדִּיק. וּמִי שֶׁעֲוֹנוֹתָיו יְתֵרוֹת עַל זְכֻיּוֹתָיו רָשָׁע. מֶחֱצָה לְמֶחֱצָה בֵּינוֹנִי. וְכֵן הַמְּדִינָה אִם הָיוּ זְכֻיּוֹת כָּל יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ מְרֻבּוֹת עַל עֲוֹנוֹתֵיהֶן הֲרֵי זוֹ צַדֶּקֶת. וְאִם הָיוּ עֲוֹנוֹתֵיהֶם מְרֻבִּין הֲרֵי זוֹ רְשָׁעָה. וְכֵן כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ:

    (1) Each and every person has merits and sins. A person whose merits are greater than their sins is righteous; and a person whose sins are greater than their merits is wicked; half and half, in-between. And the same is true of a country, if the merits of all its citizens are greater than their sins, that nation is righteous, and if their sins are greater than their merits they are wicked; and also for the whole world.

  4. (א) רְשׁוּת לְכָל אָדָם נְתוּנָה. אִם רָצָה לְהַטּוֹת עַצְמוֹ לְדֶרֶךְ טוֹבָה וְלִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. וְאִם רָצָה לְהַטּוֹת עַצְמוֹ לְדֶרֶךְ רָעָה וְלִהְיוֹת רָשָׁע הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (בראשית ג-כב) "הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ לָדַעַת טוֹב וָרָע". כְּלוֹמַר הֵן מִין זֶה שֶׁל אָדָם הָיָה יָחִיד בָּעוֹלָם וְאֵין מִין שֵׁנִי דּוֹמֶה לוֹ בְּזֶה הָעִנְיָן שֶׁיְּהֵא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ בְּדַעְתּוֹ וּבְמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ יוֹדֵעַ הַטּוֹב וְהָרַע וְעוֹשֶׂה כָּל מַה שֶּׁהוּא חָפֵץ וְאֵין מִי שֶׁיְּעַכֵּב בְּיָדוֹ מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת הַטּוֹב אוֹ הָרַע. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁכֵּן הוּא פֶּן יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ:

    (1) Free will is granted to all people: If one wanted to turn oneself to a good path and to be righteous he has free will, and if one wanted to turn oneself to an evil path and be wicked he has free will, as it is written in the Torah, Behold, the man is become like one of us, to know good and evil (Genesis 3:22), that is, this species of human is unique in the world and there is no other species like it in this matter, that it of its own initiative and will and thought knows Good and Evil and will do whatever it pleases, and there is no one to prevent its hand from doing Good or Evil, and since that is so Lest he send his hand (Gen. 3:22).

  5. (ב) אַל יַעֲבֹר בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתְּךָ דָּבָר זֶה שֶׁאוֹמְרִים טִפְּשֵׁי אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם וְרֹב גָּלְמֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק אוֹ רָשָׁע. אֵין הַדָּבָר כֵּן אֶלָּא כָּל אָדָם רָאוּי לוֹ לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק כְּמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ אוֹ רָשָׁע כְּיָרָבְעָם אוֹ חָכָם אוֹ סָכָל אוֹ רַחֲמָן אוֹ אַכְזָרִי אוֹ כִּילַי אוֹ שׁוּעַ וְכֵן שְׁאָר כָּל הַדֵּעוֹת. וְאֵין לוֹ מִי שֶׁיִּכְפֵּהוּ וְלֹא גּוֹזֵר עָלָיו וְלֹא מִי שֶׁמּוֹשְׁכוֹ לְאֶחָד מִשְּׁנֵי הַדְּרָכִים אֶלָּא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ וּמִדַּעְתּוֹ נוֹטֶה לְאֵי זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה. הוּא שֶׁיִּרְמְיָהוּ אָמַר (איכה ג-לח) "מִפִּי עֶלְיוֹן לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעוֹת וְהַטּוֹב". כְּלוֹמַר אֵין הַבּוֹרֵא גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם לִהְיוֹת טוֹב וְלֹא לִהְיוֹת רַע. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁכֵּן הוּא נִמְצָא זֶה הַחוֹטֵא הוּא הִפְסִיד אֶת עַצְמוֹ. וּלְפִיכָךְ רָאוּי לוֹ לִבְכּוֹת וּלְקוֹנֵן עַל חֲטָאָיו וְעַל מַה שֶּׁעָשָׂה לְנַפְשׁוֹ וּגְמָלָהּ רָעָה. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב אַחֲרָיו (איכה ג-לט) "מַה יִּתְאוֹנֵן אָדָם חָי" וְגוֹ'. וְחָזַר וְאָמַר הוֹאִיל וּרְשׁוּתֵנוּ בְּיָדֵינוּ וּמִדַּעְתֵּנוּ עָשִׂינוּ כָּל הָרָעוֹת רָאוּי לָנוּ לַחֲזֹר בִּתְשׁוּבָה וְלַעֲזֹב רִשְׁעֵנוּ שֶׁהָרְשׁוּת עַתָּה בְּיָדֵינוּ. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב אַחֲרָיו (איכה ג-מ) "נַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה וְנָשׁוּבָה" וְגוֹ':

    (2) Do not let this thing that the simpletons of the Nations of the World and most of the fools of Israel say cross your mind, that the Holy Blessed One decrees for a person to be righteous or wicked from the beginning of his creation. The matter is not so; rather, every person is capable of being righteous like Moses our Teacher or wicked like [King] Jeroboam, wise or foolish, compassionate or cruel, stingy or wasteful, and so on for all of the attributes. And there is no one that forces him or decrees for him, nor anyone who pulls him toward one of the two paths; rather, that person, of his own will and awareness, leans toward whichever path he wants, as Jeremiah said, Does not Good and Evil come out of the mouth of the Most High? (Lamentations 3:38). And since that is how it is, it seems that this sinner injures himself. Therefore it is appropriate for him to cry and wail over his sins and over what he did to his soul and how he caused evil to it, as is written afterward, How can a living man complain etc. (Lamentations 3:39). And he returns to say, since we have free will, and by our own awareness we did all of the evil, it is appropriate for us to return in teshuvah and abandon our wickedness, since we now have free will, as is written afterward, Let us search and try our ways, and return [to the Lord] (Lamentations 3:40).

  6. (ג) וְדָבָר זֶה עִקָּר גָּדוֹל הוּא וְהוּא עַמּוּד הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ל-טו) "רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם אֶת הַחַיִּים". וּכְתִיב (דברים יא-כו) "רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם". כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁהָרְשׁוּת בְּיֶדְכֶם. וְכָל שֶׁיַּחְפֹּץ הָאָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת מִמַּעֲשֵׂה בְּנֵי הָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה בֵּין טוֹבִים בֵּין רָעִים. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה הָעִנְיָן נֶאֱמַר (דברים ה-כו) "מִי יִתֵּן וְהָיָה לְבָבָם זֶה לָהֶם". כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁאֵין הַבּוֹרֵא כּוֹפֶה בְּנֵי הָאָדָם וְלֹא גּוֹזֵר עֲלֵיהֶן לַעֲשׂוֹת טוֹבָה אוֹ רָעָה אֶלָּא הַכּל מָסוּר לָהֶם:

    (3) And this is a major principle, and it is a pillar of the Torah and the Mitzvah, as it says, See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15), and it is written, Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse (Deuteronomy 11:26), which is to say that you have free will, and whatever a person wants to do, of all the deeds of humanity, he can do, whether good or bad. And based on this concept it says, Oh that they had such a heart as this [always, to revere Me, and keep all My commandments] (Deuteronomy 5:26), which is to say that the Creator neither forces humans nor decrees for them to do Good or Evil; everything is turned over to them.

  7. ופליגא דר' אבהו דא"ר אבהו מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין שנאמר (ישעיהו נז, יט) שלום שלום לרחוק ולקרוב לרחוק ברישא והדר לקרוב
    And the Gemara notes that this statement disagrees with the opinion of Rabbi Abbahu who holds that penitents are superior to the righteous. As Rabbi Abbahu said: In the place where penitents stand, even the full-fledged righteous do not stand, as it is stated: “Peace, peace upon him who is far and him who is near.” Peace and greeting is extended first to him who is far, the penitent, and only thereafter is peace extended to him who is near, the full-fledged righteous.
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