Breaking down the Yamim Nora'im

Breaking Down Teshuvah

  • Often translated as “repentance,” teshuvah literally means “to return”: returning to the version of ourselves that is most true and holy, no matter how far we may have strayed from it. This spiritual process isn’t about becoming a better version of ourselves; it’s about returning to the goodness that has always been within us.
  • The twelfth-century scholar Moses Maimonides (also known by the acronym RambaM) taught that there are four crucial steps we need to take in order to engage in teshuvah:

1.  Haratah (regret): understand the hurtful impact of our actions and truly experience regret.

2.  Azivat hahet (cease the transgression): put an immediate end to this hurtful action.

3.  Viddui (confession): verbally acknowledge what we have done, and ask for forgiveness.

4.  Kabbalah lehaba-ah (a resolution for the future): commit to never repeating this destructive behavior in the future.

  • Going further, Maimonides taught that complete teshuvah is not achieved until one finds oneself in the same circumstances in which they’ve transgressed in the past and instead fulfill this commitment by choosing a better path.