Teshuvah: Wiping the Slate Clean

By Rabbi Yosef Churba Sep 18, 2017 12:00 AM

According to the Dictates of Logic, It Is Impossible to Repent

Chazal declare that according to logic, there is no possibility of repenting. The very existence of teshuvah is a gift from God. The Talmud Yerushalmi tells the following story to illustrate the point.

“They asked logic, ‘What is the punishment of a sinner?’ It replied, ‘Sinners will be chased by evil.’ They asked prophecy, ‘What is the punishment of a sinner?’ It replied, ‘The sinning soul shall die.’ They asked God, ‘What is the punishment of a sinner?’ He replied, ‘Let him repent and he will be forgiven.’ This accords with the verse, ‘For God is good and just; therefore He will point out the path to sinners.’ He will point out the path for sinners to repent.”

It Is As If It Never Happened

As we said above, there is no logical explanation for the power of teshuvah. For example, if a person hurts his friend and afterwards requests forgiveness a thousand times, and even if his friend replies ungrudgingly, “I forgive you,” there is still a remnant of hurt which lingers. Absolute forgiveness, in which it is as if the hurtful event never took place at all, simply does not exist in the human realm.

In contrast, the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) declares in the name of God: “I wipe away your sins like a thick cloud, your transgressions like a cloud.” Why are sins and transgressions compared to clouds? A Jew who has sinned unintentionally is similar to a cloud that hides heaven, the sun’s rays, and any glimmer of light. Someone who has transgressed intentionally is similar to a thick cloud that blocks out all the daylight, so that afternoon seems to be evening.

But with a light breeze, the clouds are carried away and they scatter, and heaven’s pure light is revealed once more. The sun shines with its full strength and glory, and no remnants of the clouds are left. This is the type of relationship that God has with a ba’al teshuvah (penitent). God causes the darkness to disappear, and starts a new page for him. This reveals the love that God has for every Jew.

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.