Teshuvah: Uprooting the Desire Equals Uprooting the Deed

The Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto), z”l explains in his work Mesillat Yesharim that the power of repentance flows from the attribute of mercy. Teshuvah is a gift to sinners that is given out of kindness and for no other reason. What exactly is the gift? If a person truly wishes that he had not sinned, then God relates to him as if he had not done so.

This means that when a person repents, recognizes and acknowledges his sin, ponders his wickedness, is truly sorry, wishes that he had never done the sinful deed, is greatly grieved that the deed has already been done, resolves never to repeat the deed, and flees from it – then this uprooting of the desire is considered the uprooting of the deed, and he is forgiven. It is regarding such a case that the prophet Yeshayahu says: “Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” This means the sin literally ceases to exist. It is uprooted by his retroactive regret and sorrow.

Our great teacher, the genius Rabbi Yosef Chaim, author of the Ben Ish Chai, zt”l expounded similarly in front of thousands on a Shabbat Shuvah in Baghdad, as follows. The power of teshuvah is well-known. The basic components of teshuvah are confession, regret, and abandonment of the sin. None of this involves any action, only the voice and the power of speech.

Yet it negates the sinful actions that the person performed with his hands. This is similar to the wind, which has the power to break apart mountains and shatter rocks. The power of speech is like that of the wind. Speech has the power to break apart sinful actions that seem as strong and mighty as mountains and rocks.

The Ben Ish Chai, zt”l uses this idea to explain the verse in which King David, a”h (alav hashalom, may he rest in peace) proclaimed: “I lift my eyes to the mountains; from where (Heb. mei’ayin) will my help come?”

In other words, a person looks at the high mountains which were created by his sins, and thinks to himself: “How can I overcome these and gain atonement for all my sins, which are so numerous, and as high as mountains?”

The answer is that the help will come “mei’ayin” – from the power of speech, which is called ayin. This concept does not exist in human court systems, because people cannot negate an action through speech. But God does accept teshuvah, the confession and regret that the person expresses in speech.

That is why the next verse says, “My help is from God,” and shortly afterward it says that He “will keep you from all harm; He will watch over you.”

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.