Teshuvah Brings About Closeness to God
If Teshuvah is motivated by love for God, then the most severe transgression is now considered a mitzvah. Teshuvah brings a person to amazing closeness with God. All of the nevi’im (prophets) sing the praises of the Ba'al Teshuvah, and speak of his closeness to God. We read in Yeshayahu: “‘Peace, peace, to those far and near,’ says God, ‘and I will heal them.’”
Chazal explains that this verse is speaking of someone who was far away from God but then drew near. Similarly, the Rambam (Maimonides), z”l writes: “Teshuvah is great, for it brings man close to the Shekhinah (Divine presence), as it says, ‘Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, etc.’ Teshuvah brings close those who are far. Yesterday this person was hated before God – abominable, distanced, and despised – while today he is beloved, favored, close, and a friend.”
Our teacher the Mabit (Rabbi Moshe of Trani), in his book Beit Elokim, writes that this closeness to God is the essence of Teshuvah: “We have explored definitions of Teshuvah, and have found one that is correct and complete. Teshuvah is moving from being far from God to being close to Him.”
Similarly, Rabbi Chaim Vital, z”l writes that God’s character is not like that of flesh and blood. For when a person sins against his fellow man and then reconciles with him, the relationship is not quite the same as it was before. But when it is God, He does not change his love at all from what it was previously. On the contrary, He loves the person, even more, when he sincerely repents.
Rabbi Chizkiyahu Katnuf, zt”l was a tzaddik (righteous person) who served as maggid (preacher) of the Bukharim neighborhood of Jerusalem. He used to say that a special crown is given to someone who repents. He merits an additional Neshamah (soul) and is called a servant of God. King David, a”h was not called a servant of God until after he sinned and repented, as it says: “For the menatze’ach (music director). Of David the servant of God.”
We find similarly that when the sons of Korach repented, they merited becoming prophets. This is because when intentional sins become merits, it means that God takes all the sins and they become holy. Furthermore, Teshuvah is even greater than tzedakah. After all, it is possible for a person to give tzedakah to someone who does not deserve it. Teshuvah, though, is a gift one gives himself, and through it, God becomes full of mercy.
The holy genius and Mekubal (mystic), Rabbi Ovadia Hadaya, zt”l writes that when a person sins, he is causing great damage to the limb with which he sinned. The holy Shekhinah feels hurt. The person’s Neshamah, which is carved out of the Throne of Glory, becomes angry and regrets having brought his physical body into the world.
But when a person repents, he fixes the limb, and the spark of holiness returns to its place. God is grateful to the person, for now, the Shekhinah can stop hurting. Similarly, the person’s Neshamah is no longer angry. This is the essence of the mitzvah of Teshuvah: to stop the hurt of the Shekhinah, and to uplift all the holy sparks of the person himself.
Rabbi Yosef Churba is the founder of Sephardic.Org as well as Rosh Yeshiva of Magen Avraham Yeshiva in Brooklyn NY. It is with his guidance that this amazing website remains on the correct path in order to inspire Jewish people around the world.