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Weekly Letter: The Proper Way to Repent

In preparation for the auspicious day of Rosh Hashanah – the opportunity for us to do teshuvah and start the year with a clean slate – we share a letter where the Rebbe explains the proper way to repent, to one who feels tremendous remorse for a particular wrong- doing. In a way that can bring practical and positive results. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.

By the Grace of G-d

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5741

Brooklyn, N.Y.


Chicago, Ill. 60659

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about your anxiety as a result of an incident last summer, involving a verbal outburst, which, you think, may require a special teshuva etc.

I trust you know that one of the basic principles of our Torah, Toras Emes, is that G-d does not require of a person anything that is beyond the person’s capacity. And, needless to say, G-d knows the capacities and weaknesses of the creatures He created, including the fact that a human being is subject to moods, which sometimes bring him to say or even do things which are contrary to his real character and will.

For this reason, G-d has provided teshuva, “repentance”, which is the ability to rectify anything that needs to be rectified, even to the extent of erasing the past. Teshuva, basically, calls for a sincere regret of the past failing and equally sincere determination not to repeat it. And when this is done, the person again becomes beloved to G-d, and even more than before, as is the case of a truant child who begs his father ‘s  forgiveness and father embraces him more affectionately than before.

Moreover, as you surely know, G-d has set aside special times in the year for teshuva, such as the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur, so that a person should not become overly preoccupied with guilt feelings, remorse and sadness which are counterproductive and can only hinder is normal activities, especially the most important activity of serving G-d with joy.

It is clear from your letter that you have had more than your share of regret and remorse over the past. Thus you may rest assured that not only are you a Jew in good standing with Hashem, but even closer and dearer than before and there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any anxiety on that score. So you can completely dismiss the incident from your mind and turn your full attention to continued advancement in Yisddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos,  wholeheartedly and with joy.

With blessing,

P.S. With regard to your request for an order of teshuva , it is already included in the above, specifically: conducting the everyday life in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch, including complete trust/bittachon in G-d in general and also that He is the “Gracious One Who pardons abundantly” as we say in the amida of our daily prayers, and that “Nothing stands in the way of teshuva.” All this – with joy, in compliance with the imperative: “Serve G-d with joy.” I will remember you in prayer for the hatzlocho in the above.