Teshuvah Step 7: Taking Action
For the past number of weeks we have been trying to become an ish acher, a different person than we were previously.
Becoming a different person means viewing life and avodah (the service of Hashem) from a different perspective. We’ve been working on shifting the mindset that brought us to where we are today.
Now we reach the finale of our work – Yom Kippur!
What can we do on Yom Kippur to “complete” the teshuvah process?
The Talmud (Yoma 85b) tells us that Yom Kippur atones for one’s sins on the condition that he engages in teshuvah.
What’s the nature of this teshuvah? Must we rectify every aveirah (sin) we’ve committed in order to receive atonement?
Rav Yisrael Salanter zt”l (Michtav 7) writes that to be regarded as having engaged in teshuvah on Yom Kippur, all one needs to do is correct an easy aspect of an aveirah he has transgressed.
For example, when it comes to lashon harah, there are situations of greater difficulty and of lesser difficulty.
It’s more difficult to refrain from lashon harah in instances where there’s peer pressure involved. But refraining from lashon harah in the absence of peer pressure would still be considered engaging in teshuvah.
What’s the point of this small action if it doesn’t address the entire scope of the aveirah? Moreover, how does a small act absolve us from doing teshuvah for the rest of our mistakes?
Certainly Rav Yisrael never meant to say that one fulfills his teshuvah “quota” by correcting one small action.
Rather, Rav Yisrael saw a small action as the key to solidifying the teshuvah process. How is this so?
We think that actions are simply about doing the right thing. The Sefer HaChinuch (Book of Mitzvos), however, writes that a person’s heart and thoughts are influenced by the actions he performs. Actions are more than an end goal; they are the means to alter our inner world.
If actions are all about getting the job done, each act stands on its own. Refraining from lashon harah when there’s less of a challenge won’t necessarily lead to refraining from lashon harahwhen there’s a greater challenge.
But if actions are a means to affect our hearts and change our internal world, then a small success can lead to even greater successes because we’ve chiseled away at the mindset that brought us to sin.
But what about people who’ve done actions for many years without experiencing any significant internal change?
The simple answer is alluded to by the Chinuch himself: it all depends on our intent.
For example, a person who wants to improve his shalom bayis (marriage) may commit himself to greeting his wife cheerfully every morning.
The morning greeting can go in two directions:
An end unto itself – he now says something nice to his wife every morning
A means to break the self-centered mindset that brought on their shalom bayis issues in the first place.
Taking on a small action isn’t the end of the teshuvah process, but rather the means to solidifying the new mindset we have worked to instill within ourselves.
With the right intent behind our actions, the sky’s the limit as to what we can accomplish.
You’ve decided to do teshuvah in a specific area of life. You’ve recognized the perspective that led to your current behavior and the new perspective you want to adopt.
- Identify an easy aspect of an aveirah you want to repair and commit to acting on it.
- As you implement the new change, pay attention to the internal struggle going on and fulfill the mitzvah with the intent of letting go of the old perspective and establishing the new one.
Have a easy and meaningful fast,
P.S. Hit REPLY to share your thoughts and experiences on this step of the teshuvah process.