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Thought for the Day: Charata and Azivas haCheit

I recently acquired a new sefer that is Beis Elokim (the Mabit) with Beis Moshe (notes and explanations by R' Moshe Roberts, shlita, of Telshe, Chicago).  Besides the fact it is nice to give parnassa to one of our local tzurba d'rabanan, it has also introduced me to the Mabit.  I am learning the second volume, on Tshuva.  I also have the first volume, which is on T'fila, I am starting with t'shuva.  Wish me luck.

The Mabit has a slightly different angle on t'shuva that I am finding very enlightening.  In particular, he explains why charata (regret for past misdeeds) and azivas ha'cheit (abandoning the sin) are the real back bone of t'shuva.  The other components are important -- even crucial -- but these two really define and shape the essence of t'shuva.  First the Mabit explains why we need both charata  and azivas ha'cheit.  If I simply feel really, really badly but don't abandon the sin, then it is like going to the mikveh with a dead rat in your hand.  If, on the other hand, I stop the bad behavior but don't feel really, really badly, then perhaps I have just lost my desire for the behavior.

There is a deeper reason that these are not just two of the essential components of t'shuva, but, in fact, the essential elements of t'shuva.  Regret is a mental change.  Leaving the sin is a physical change.  The sin was perpetrated by both the body (who did it) and the soul (who wanted to do it).  Therefore, says the Mabit, the rectification requires actions from both the body and soul.  He brings and explains the medrash regarding Kayin's complaint to HaShem: Is my sin to great for you to bear?  You bear the upper creatures (ie, You created spirituality) and you bear the lower creatures (ie, You created physicality) only so that You could create the human being.  You wanted me to be in a difficult position (struggling against the darkness of physicality for its own sake) in order that I could come closer to You.  If I stumble and want to return, isn't it just and fair that You should accept me?

T'shuva, therefore, is not so much concession to my weaknesses, but an essential ingredient of my growth.  With that perspective, stumbling is not a failure at all; it is rather the first step to greatness.

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