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Orot Ha-Teshuva

Uploaded: Thursday, September 04, 2008

By: Rav Ronen Neuwirth

This week, on ' , we have commemorated the Yahrzeit of Rav A.I. Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the first and the most significant founders of the Religious Zionist Movement. One of Rav Kooks most important writings is Orot Ha-Teshuva The Light of Repentance. This composition of Rav Kook is innovative in the sense of his unique and profound definition of the concept of .

"Great is Teshuvah, that it preceded the creation of the world." (Midrash T'hillim 90:12). We tend to comprehend Teshuva as repentance, as a tool to correct all of our misdeeds, errors and sins. However, if that were the case, in an ideal world, there is no room for the concept of the since there would not be any sins. If so, why is it that Teshuva preceded the creation of the world according to our sages? Why was there a need for Teshuva prior to the actual existence of sin?
According to Rav Kook, Teshuva is not merely a means to overcome the effects of sin. "Teshuvah preceded the world, therefore it is the foundation of the world" (Orot haTeshuvah 5:6a) When the World was created, in The Beginning, it was created in an eternal form, by an eternal force Hashem. By definition, however, a physical world is a limited world, a world that is bounded in a finite number of dimensions. This gap between the creator and the limited reality caused an inherent deterioration in this World. This deterioration is not related to any sin but rather related to the definition of a physical World.
From this very first moment of deterioration, a new force started developing the power of Teshuva. In that sense, Teshuva is the inertial force that makes the World go around. Its the force that always moves us forward, and makes us strive, desire and aspire. Because we were once in an eternal position, subconsciously we still strive to restore this previous status and overcome our mortality. Therefore, we always need to be progressing.
Teshuva is all about progress, always. Obviously, one who had sinned must, first of all, restore his/her former level of spirituality, and in that case, Teshuva is indeed repentance. Even, however, one who hypothetically never committed any kind of sin, still needs to do Teshuva, needs to progress. Without being constantly in movement, we deteriorating, by nature. Teshuva is about development, progress and continuous improvement.
This is the goal of the holy month of Elul. We need to desire, to strive to retrieve our passion for (holiness). Encouraging and motivating our willingness to be in never-ending spiritual progress, is the first and most essential element in Teshuva. Rav Kook explains that our desires are also the sources of our abilities. The stronger our desire for something, the more energy we will find in ourselves in order to achieve that thing, and in the words of Rav Kook: The power of the will generates the ability (Orot Hakodesh). The more we believe the more we can achieve.
In Chodesh Elul, we have to clean the dust from our spiritual aspirations. We need to return to a route of progress. This will surely endow us, later on, with the ability to improve our actions.
This innovative concept of Teshuva is also reflected in the Psalm of Elul (Psalm 27) ' . ' ". One thing have I asked of Hashem, that will I seek after. Rab Simcha Bonim of Pshischa explains the redundant words in the verse as follows: My only wish is to have the desire to seek Hashem. When I will internalize this desire, nothing can stop me on the way to the Eternity ' that I may dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.

In the upcoming Days of Awe, we will, hopefully, have the ability to achieve the spiritual experience of dwelling in the House of Hashem. Meanwhile, in order to get there, we need to practice for a month. We need to activate our dormant desires for Hashem I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine - -


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