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Thought for the Day: Encouragement to Do T'shuva

In case you had any doubt as to the power and effectiveness of the yeitzer ha'rah, he staged an extraordinary public demonstration in Chicago over the last few days.  We had below zero (that's Fahrenheit, boys and girls) temperatures with wind chills down to 30 below due to winds gusting to 20 mph.  Even with parka, face mask, down gloves, over-boots, and ski pants it was still painful to be out for more than a few minutes.  Yet there were people without gloves or face masks, sometimes even just a light coat.  Who were these supermen?  Smokers.  Those guys will brave any weather for their 10 minute smoke break.  It's not just fearlessness, either.  Oh no, they have also developed amazing skills; being able to light a match in gale force winds and driving rain.

With such a powerful adversary, we need powerful ammunition.  Chazal have given us takanos to help.  Even though the word takana is translated as "regulation", it comes from the same root as the word "tikun"/to repair.  Chazal tell us that the fate of S'dom would not have been sealed except for the rampant theft.  As a prerequisite to t'shuva for theft, the Torah requires that the object itself (so long as it is in existence) must be returned.  Suppose, though, someone stole a beam and then used it as the central pillar for his mother-in-law cottage in the back (way, way, back).  For him to have to return that beam, the entire cottage would need to be demolished.  Chazal effected a repair: he can return the value of the beam, but the beam itself he can keep.  That repair goes by the name of: takanas shavim/the repair to encourage t'shuvah.

You want more?  Check out Bava Kama 94b, which records the following incident and the response it inspired in Chazal.  A man said to his wife that he wanted to do t'shuva for all the stealing he had done.  His wife told him, "If you return all the money you stole, you won't even be left with a belt to hold up your pants!"  In other words, he had funded so much of his life by fencing stolen property, that he would have to sell everything he owned to pay back all his victims.  The response:  If someone comes to give you money for something (long gone, by now) that he stole from you, you must refuse.

What if you don't refuse?  "ein ru'ach chachamin noche heimenu", an expression that usually means that the sages expected more from you.  Here, though, Rashi says it means that there is no wisdom nor piety in you.  Apparently, if you don't appreciate the danger we all face from yeitzer ha'rah by the extreme lengths to which Chazal have gone to remove any obstacles to t'shuvah, then you just aren't getting it; there is no wisdom or piety in you.


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