Teshuvah for a Person Who Sins Repeatedly

Our teacher, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, the genius, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, zt”l shares an additional insight on the subject of sinning. Let’s say that Reuven sins against Shimon, harms his dignity, and embarrasses him. Later, Reuven is sorry for it, and comes to Shimon and begs forgiveness. Shimon, out of the goodness of his heart, forgives Reuven and assures him that he will forget all about it. It will be as if it never happened at all. After a while, Reuven hurts Shimon again. Once again, he comes to Shimon and asks his forgiveness.

It is very difficult for Shimon to forgive him a second time. Nevertheless, it is possible that Shimon will overcome his reluctance, and forgive him again out of the goodness of his heart. But if Reuven embarrasses Shimon a third time, even if afterward Reuven is sorry, Shimon will not forgive him. Rather, he will say to Reuven: “How many times can you embarrass me, and then feel sorry and ask forgiveness?! You no longer deserve to be forgiven.” How much more so the fourth time, and so on. Very nice but also repetitious. 

God is different. Commenting on the verse, “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will be merciful to whom I will be merciful,” Chazal say that “I will be gracious” refers even to those who do not deserve it, and “I will be merciful” refers even to those who do not merit it. God forgives His children, the Jewish nation, even though they have already repented numerous times and then resumed sinning.

Nevertheless, because of His great love for them, He repeatedly forgives them for all their sins, the thousandth time just like the first. For forgiveness stems from God’s attribute of mercy, and God is unlimited; He is infinite (ein sof), as it says: “The steadfast love of God never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.”

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.