Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Credible Teshuba

"What is a comprehensive repentance? When one faces the same opportunity to repeat the original transgression, but now he doesn't do it. Instead he repents. But if he does not repeat the original transgression, because now he fears people will find out, etc...his repentance is accepted, but it is not considered a comprehensive repentance" (2:1)

Maimonides gives the example of a person who was engaged in an illicit relationship and later on he repents. The final test of his repentance will take place when he is faced with a similar opportunity as before, and now, he refrains from repeating the transgression, because of his resolve.

If now, however, he suspects somebody will find out about his affairs, and because of that he refrains from repeating his sin, it is a sort of Teshuba/repentance but, it is not as credible or comprehensive as the previous case. In the last instance he did not repeat his offense because circumstances have changed (now, somebody might find out), while in the first case, he did not repeat the transgression because HE has changed.

We all have read in the news about celebrities or politicians that were caught cheating or doing other immoral things. Almost invariably, they will come in front of the cameras and publicly apologize for what they have done. Well, their act is a sort of repentance. But, since the whole process of repentance happened as a consequence of having been caught, we can not know if he is he really repenting of his wrong behavior or if he is more lamenting that he got caught, and he is about to loss his job? We will never know...

Following Maimonides words, the more credible situation will be if, while he is still involved in the illicit relationship, and has no problem to continue with it, now, out of the call of his own conscience, he stops, repents and changes.

That is a "credible Teshuba".

Rabbi Yosef Bitton.

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