Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The obstacles to Teshuba

In Chapter 4 of Hilkhot Teshuba Maimonides enumerates twenty-four actions, personality patterns or attitudes that 'prevent' or make very difficult for a person to undergo the process of repentance.

Some examples:

DOMINO EFFECT (4:1) "Those who because of their teachings or their bad example, etc. induce or influence other people to sin", causing a negative domino effect. Teshuba, in this case, is virtually impossible because part of the process of repentance is repairing what one has done wrong. Once one prompted or influenced other people to do the wrong thing, how can he take it back from them? How can he repair his actions now? Each one of them, probably already influenced negatively other people?

CALCULATED TESHUBA (4:1) "Sinning with the intention of repenting later." When I commit a sin deliberately, and telling myself, "I will repent for this sin later on." Or if I say: "Since Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness , God will forgive me for the sin I'm about to commit". In these conditions Teshuba is unacceptable. Because Teshuba is effective only when it comes from a sincere remorse. But, if I decided to commit a sin, calculating that I will repent for it later on, it goes against the basic rules of the game of 'sincere' Teshuba and that repentance is not accepted.

DEFENSIVE PERSONALITY (4:2) "Someone who hates to be corrected or criticized" (ego defense mechanisms). Imagine someone who cannot accept a minimal and respectful criticism from his or her love-ones, those who care for his or her well being. Many times this type of personality disfunction is a consequence of a very low self esteem, which prevents a person to cope with minimal criticism, because his self esteem will collapse. This person, Maimonides concludes, will continue with is transgression, because he is unable to see himself as other people perceive him, and to his own eyes, he is not doing anything wrong.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton.

130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024.

Email: rabbibitton@yahoo.com

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