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Thought for the Day: T'shuva Is a Bigger Gift Than You Thought

The Mabit says that t'shuva is primarily for Klal Yisrael.  Besides bringing proof from scripture and Chazal, he gives a simple s'vara.  Goyim have seven very basic mitzvos, the equivalent of "don't smoke in the theater during the play"  There is not much excuse for not being able to be careful about them, so there is very little motivation to give them the gift of t'shuva.  Jews, on the other hand, have so many obligations that is impossible to go long without transgressing and prohibition and/or failing to fulfill an imperative.  (In case you think it's just hard and not impossible, learn through M'silas Y'sharim and get back to me.)  So HaShem created t'shuva for us and the goyim also benefit.  However, even though they get t'shuva, it is quite limited.  The Mabit notes three major areas in which t'shuva works differently for us than for goyim.

First, the t'shuva of a goy only helps for this world and not the next.  That is, their t'shuva can help them to avoid getting punished for their crimes, but that's it.  It is basically a plea for leniency.  When a Jew does t'shuva, on the other hand, their are eternal ramifications.  Our t'shuva can completely remove the stain that a sin leaves on our souls.  Much better to do that in this world, of course, than leave it for that great laundromat known as gehinom.

Second, our t'shuva can actually change past indiscretions (and flat out rebellion) into points of pride and merit.  The word "t'shuva" actually means to return.  When we sin, maliciously or even by accident, there is a level of rebellion against our King.  After all, our accidental sins are due to lack of care, which stems from lack of appreciation of the importance of the orders from the King, which in turn is a passive rebellion.  So our t'shuva is returning our focus and attitude regarding orders from the King.  A rebel who repents is giving the greatest honor possible to the King; the worse his past, the greater the honor.  A goy doesn't have HaShem as his King, merely his ruler.  The goy's transgressions are, therefore, simply wanting to break the rules because they are in his way.

Finally, a goy's t'shuva helps only that goy; he isn't helping anyone but himself.  When a Jew does t'shuva, all of Klal Yisrael benefits -- kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh.  Just as we are all responsible for each other and are culpable for the other's errors, so too we all benefit from each other's successes.

Besides all that, t'shuva is a mitzvas asei mi'd'oaiso -- a positive Torah commandment.  In addition to all the other benefits, we actually get credited with another mitzvah just for taking advantage of the incredible kindness of being allowed repair the past.  Whoa!  It's great to be a Jew.

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