Weekly Letter: True Meaning of Teshuvah

This Week, as we prepare to enter the Ten Days of Repentance, we present a letter from the Rebbe with some encouraging words about teshuvah. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s personal trusted secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

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                                                                                                                      By the Grace of G-d

20th of Tishrei, 5734

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dr.

Hamilton, Ont.

Blessing and Greeting:

Your letter reached me in the auspicious days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart’s desires for the good.

This of course includes, above all, your inner desire to bring your daily life into fullest harmony with the instructions of our Torah and mitzvot. For our Torah is called Torat Chayim and Torat Emet, because it is the Jew’s true guide in the daily life and enables him to discern the truth in a world of illusion and confusion.

The Torah also teaches that nothing stands in the way of teshuvah and teshuvah literally means “return” to one’s essence, this being the desire of every Jew to do the will of G-d, as set forth in the Torah which was given to us by G-d at Sinai – the Written Torah, together with its interpretation, or Oral Law, transmitted to us from generation to generation through the unbroken chain of Tradition.

And while the concept of “G-d desires the heart” is an important element in our religious experience, the basic principle upon which our Jewish religion and way of life rest is “the essential thing is the deed” namely, the actual fulfillment of G-d’s mitzvot in the everyday life. Moreover, the fulfillment of the mitzvot must be unconditional, as expressed in the original acceptance of the Torah at Sinai: na’aseh (first, and then) v’nishma. In other words, the understanding of the deeper aspects of the mitzvot is not a prerequisite, but rather follows the practice and is enriched and deepened by it.

May G-d grant that you go from strength to strength along the road to Torah and mitzvot and achieve the utmost degree of both na’aseh  and v’nishma.

With blessing,

P.S. One of the natural human traits is to utilize all one’s capacities, which often produces a desire to accomplish something no one ever thought of doing before.  In some cases where this desire is exaggerated, it may prompt an individual to veer from the course clearly set forth by G-d, under the misconception that the trodden path is for others or for a different point in time, in misguided confidence that no perils could possibly be lurking in the course, and so forth.

But the Torah, called Torah Or because it illuminates the Truth, pointedly warns against this kind of adventure. We find it also in the fact that even a Tzadik Gomur and the wisest of men (wisest also in the wisdom of Torah) includes in the early morning prayers every day, the urgent plea to G-d: “Bring me not into the power of temptation.” One cannot help but feel deeply sorry for those who have wasted so much time in seeking the Truth outside of Torah Or – an irretrievable loss of man’s greatest and precious resource – time.

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The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).

These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.

We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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