Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.Rumi
The act of forgiveness cannot exist without the act of repentance. In the Jewish tradition, repentance is called teshuvah a Hebrew word translated as “returning.”
We cannot return to where we never left. We cannot repent unless we have first gone astray. According to the Talmud, God created repentance before He created the physical universe, making it among the first things created.
When we commit a crime against others, we are committing a crime against our highest selves. We are going astray… and one day we will be called to return.
The process of repentance, as laid out by Maimonides, includes three stages: confession, regret and a vow not to repeat the misdeed. We can live with guilt or we can repent and return. True remorse is born when we find ourselves with the opportunity to go astray again yet choose to return to our highest selves.
We knowing and unknowingly cause pain to others. Sins between people are considered much more severe in Judaism than sins between man and God.
Sins against God can be atoned for through confession, regret and promising not to repeat the action. Sins against other people can be atoned for only once the wrong has been made right.
Choice is only meaningful if a choice has been made. Choose wisely. Do not knowingly make the same mistake over and over again.
One day, you will be called to account for all that you have done. The universe has a long memory.
9 thoughts on “Teshuvah | The Jewish Tradition of Repentance”
As you mentioned, guilt alone is not enough. It is a type of self-punishment. We need to accept our consequences and make restitution. That is self-forgiveness, not self-punishment.
Making restitution is the basis of all legal systems around the world. How does it differ to God’s law, I wonder.
Self-punishment helps no one–not even the one who is needlessly punishing himself.
This is so true. I had read somewhere that an apology consists of three things: I’m sorry, It was my fault and How can I make it right? But most people forget the last part. This article reminded me of that quote. It’s so true that feeling guilty isn’t enough, we have to walk towards making right what we did wrong and most importantly never repeat the mistake.
Too many people use the first two parts as an excuse to commit the mistake again. But that is not how it works. We have to set things right for it to be repentance; and not a mere apology.
Sometimes we are sorry and repentant even as we make decisions, but we have no choice but to make them. Good and bad are not always binary.