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Teshuva on Shabbat

Teshuva translated as repentance

Teshuvah is often translated as ‘repentance but this can be misleading. The Hebrew word תשובה ‘Teshuvah’ contains within it the word תשוב – return – and ה – the Hebrew letter ‘Hei’ which represents ‘Hashem’ – one of the ways we refer to G-d. Thus Teshuvah means – return to G-d, or – return to ‘Hei’. In this latter context, we must explain the Tetragrammaton, a name that indicates G-d’s transcendental aspect. The spiritual ‘anatomy’ of this name is explained in the book of Tanya,  Igeres haTeshuvah Chapter 4. The Tanya, a basic text of Chassidic teaching by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, bases this teaching on the Zohar – a basic text of Kabbalistic teaching. “Teshuvah is ‘tashuv hei’, returning the (Hebrew letter) ‘hei’ .” Where are we returning the ‘hei’ to? To the transcendental name of G-d. The Tanya continues: “…the latter ‘hei’ is teshuvah tata’a – lower teshuva; the upper ‘hei’ is teshuvah ila’a, higher teshuvah.” If we investigate this spiritual ‘anatomy’ further, the Hebrew name of G-d that we have referred to as the transcendental name is comprised of the following letters; י = yud ה = hei ו = vav and ה = hei.

G-dliness in the world

The first three letters have to do with higher spiritual realms of G-dliness, while the final ‘hei’ has to do with G-dliness as it is enclothed and manifests in the physical world. G-dliness is here in this world but not apparent to most created beings. We have the potential to sin to use our free choice wisely to carry out G-d’s commandments and thus fulfill the purpose of creation. When we sin, all is not yet lost. We have the gift of Teshuvah, through which we return to G-d and return the ‘lower hei’ – the aspect of G-dliness that is enclothed in physicality, to reconnect as it were to its spiritual counterpart, the first three letters of the transcendental name of G-d. (Everything is a part of G-d but from our perspective, there are different levels of revelation.) In effect, this means that we are rectifying and elevating physicality.

How do we perform ‘Teshuvah Tata’a’

– lower teshuvah? The three-step process is outlined in the Jewish Code of Law. The first step is to confess – acknowledge – one’s wrongdoing. The second step is to regret it sincerely, and the third step is to abandon the negative action. (All of this can happen in a very short time. It is said that the Messiah will come when every Jew has experienced a ‘hirhur Teshuvah’ – a THOUGHT of Teshuvah.)This lower Teshuvah is the one that we do not practice on Shabbat. What is Shabbat? Shabbat is a time when all of creation becomes spiritually elevated, even though we are not necessarily aware of it. It is a taste of the World to Come. Shabbat is the day we leave behind our weekday concerns, and occupy ourselves with G-dliness in a more direct manner. It is not that working for a living is not a spiritual thing to do, or shopping and cooking and cleaning. All these activities are G-dly activities when performed for the right reason and according to G-d’s commandments. The tithe we take from our earnings, for example, elevates all our efforts in making a living to a high spiritual level. Being honest and being careful with the laws of interest are more examples of how the mundane becomes spiritual. But Shabbat is different. On Shabbat, we acknowledge our Creator by letting go of our ‘control’ of the natural world and devoting ourselves to prayer and study – basking in the glory of G-d. Thus we do not mourn the dead on Shabbat, and we do not make an account of our sins and confess them.

Teshuvah Ila’a – higher Teshuvah

Higher Teshuvah means cleaving to G-d. This can be achieved by occupying ourselves with spiritual pursuits like studying Torah and praying –  with joy! Shabbat is thus an opportune time for Teshuvah Ila’a, an innately suitable time! The Hebrew letters of the word Teshuvah- תשובה, contain the letters of the word Shabbat – שבת. If you turn around the letters it can be read as ‘v’Shavta’ – and you shall return! It must be pointed out that the best time to return to G-d is always right now! Certainly, we do not have to refrain from it on Shabbat. By Rabbi Yitzchak Arad

Teshuva for Noahides

For Noahides Teshuva is an important part of the way, when we sin we do not merely damage or pollute ourselves, no it’s much worse, we take the energy that Hashem invests in us and stick it in a place of filth and unG-dliness. Doing Teshuva to not get punished is a start and better than living in sin, but doing it as a result of realizing the ungratefulness and disrespect we showed towards Hashem, now that’s another story like rabbi Yitzchak Arad said, the transcendental name of Hashem, shows us 2 letters hey ה one connected to the yud י higher sins and one connected to the vav ו lower sins, the text seems to be written for Jews as we are not obliged to keep Shabbat, however, the name is the same and we also have higher and lower sins to overcome, bring back holiness the hey to this place might be a tikkun for Jews, but it also reflects the image of Hashem in which we were made, so our participation helps create a better world and gets us closer to Hashem for sure.

By: Yoeri Schepens

Sources: Rabbi Yitzchak Arad.

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