Teshuva - the Challenge of Changing

דא"ר אבהו מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין שנאמר (ישעיהו נז, יט) שלום שלום לרחוק ולקרוב לרחוק ברישא והדר לקרוב

Babylonian Talmud, Brachot, 34b

As Rabbi Abbahu said: In the place where penitents (ba'alie teshuva) 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 after is peace extended to him who is near, [the full-fledged righteous].

What is the difference between a ba'al teshuva (penitent) and a tzadik (righteous person)?

Why do you think a tzadik cannot stand in the place of a ba'al teshuva?

Ideas from Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam, 1135 - 1204)

(ב) ...וְכָל הַדֵּעוֹת יֵשׁ מֵהֶן דֵּעוֹת שֶׁהֵן לָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ לְפִי טֶבַע גּוּפוֹ. וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן דֵּעוֹת שֶׁטִּבְעוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם זֶה מְכֻוָּן וְעָתִיד לְקַבֵּל אוֹתָם בִּמְהֵרָה יוֹתֵר מִשְּׁאָר הַדֵּעוֹת. וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן שֶׁאֵינָן לָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ אֶלָּא לָמַד אוֹתָם מֵאֲחֵרִים אוֹ שֶׁנִּפְנָה לָהֶן מֵעַצְמוֹ לְפִי מַחֲשָׁבָה שֶׁעָלְתָה בְּלִבּוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַע שֶׁזּוֹ הַדֵּעָה טוֹבָה לוֹ וּבָהּ רָאוּי לֵילֵךְ וְהִנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בָּהּ עַד שֶׁנִּקְבְּעָה בְּלִבּוֹ:

(2) ...Pertaining to traits in general, there are some traits that a person acquires at birth, in keeping with the nature of his body; and there are some traits to which a particular person by nature tends to acquire them more easily than other traits; some of them may not come naturally to a person at his birth, but are learned from others, or turned to them on his own. Either by his own thoughts, or by having heard that this particular trait is good for him and proper to follow it, and he did follow it until it was set in his heart.

שמונה פרקים, פרק א
וְאַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ, שֶׁתִּקּוּן הַמִּדּוֹת הִיא: רְפוּאַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְכֹחוֹתֶיהָ.

Rambam, Eight Chapters, Chapter 1

You know that the improvement of character traits is the healing of the soul and its capacities.

How does the Rambam explain the nature of a person?

What do you think of the idea that 'the improvement of our character traits is the healing of the soul?

From the Ethics our Fathers (Pirkei Avot)

(טז) רַבִּי יַעֲקֹב אוֹמֵר, הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לִפְרוֹזְדוֹר בִּפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. הַתְקֵן עַצְמְךָ בַפְּרוֹזְדוֹר, כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לַטְּרַקְלִין:

(יז) הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, יָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְיָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת שֶׁל קוֹרַת רוּחַ בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה:

(16) Rabbi Yaakov says: This world is like a hallway before the world to come. Fix yourself in the hallway so you may enter the drawing room.

(17) He would say: One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the time in the world to come. And one hour of pleasure in the world to come is better than all the time in this world.

According to Rabbi Yaakov why is fixing ourselves so important?

Why is so great a value given to fixing ourselves and teshuva?

Why would Rabbi Yaakov think that one hour of teshuva (change/repentance) is better than all time in the world to come? Do you agree with this statement?

(יד) הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי:

(14) He [Hillel] used to say: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?

How can you use Hillel's quote to inspire you to change?