teshuva repentance

I had a great deal of benefit from R. Yona [the author of the medieval book, The Gates of Repentance שערי תשובה]. It is a drop on the strict side I think. But it certainly gives a clear idea of what repentance is about from a Torah perspective. I may not keep everything he says to do but at least I have an idea of the right direction.

There is an original sin that is the first of ones sins, This is why we say in prayer "hamaavir rishon rishon."[המעביר ראשו ראשון] But it seems to me that  this does not mean the original sin in chronological order, but in ontological order. That is a person might have an original sin. But that might not be the original sin in terms of causation. It might be a later sin which draws a person towards itself by small  sins, one at a time. Also, there can be  several original sins. But in practical terms the implication  seems to be that it is of utmost importance for a person to discover his original sin (or sins) and repent on them and then the later sins automatically start to fall away.

In any case the subject of repentance is hard. In the Christian world  repentance is often defined as: (1) not drinking alcohol, (2) not playing cards, and (3) not being a racist.
This already shows us that sin and repentance have come a long way from Torah in the Christian world. Torah is no longer considered to be the standard of what defines sin.
In the Jewish world, while the above things are not considered sins, but the definition of  sin and repentance is to do lots of rituals. The more the better. So in both cases, the Torah is not considered the standard (the measuring stick) to decide what is a sin and what is not.

And if one does not know what a sin is, he can't repent.

My suggestion is to read the books called "Musar" that explain in detail what it is that the Torah wants from us in plain language. In English or German, the best books out there that explain this are of Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (The Horev and The 19 Letters).
To avoid cults that claim to be teaching Torah is the most  important thing. This is because most of people's sins come about when they think they are doing a mitzvah. [LM I:1 The evil inclination is dressed in mitzvahs.  It never says, "Come do a sin." Rather the Satan seduces people by saying, "Come and do a mitzvah."]

 In Hebrew the best books are the famous Musar books: Duties of the Heart, Mesilat Yesharim, Shaarei Teshuva, Orchot Tzadikim and the books from the school of thought of Israel Salanter. Mainly that would be the Madgrat HaAdam from the "Alter of Navardok."

On a personal note, I should mention that Musar really got into me  when I was at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn. It did not last long though because I got involved in Breslov which was a side track.   I lost the learning Torah focus. People that get involved  should be made aware of this tendency which is wide spread in Bresov.  \


1) The idea of Israel Salanter was this: Since one's inner self (who one really is deep inside) is hidden from one, therefore one's real motivations remain hidden even from oneself.  But this deep inner essence is not completely impenetrable. It is possible to affect it. That is by learning books of Medieaval Ethics. That is lots of learning of Mediaeval Ethics. That is he thought the time factor was very important. While I cant do what he suggested what I do try to do is to spend the first couple of minutes when I wake up in the morning on some kind of Medieval ethics learning.--Or something from the Gra whom I consider like a rishon {medieval authority.}

2) Christians ought to remain Christians, and Jews ought to remain Jews. So in applying my advice here about learning books of Ethics from the Middle Ages the set of books would be different for both categories. I am mainly talking about Jewish books, but Christians might pick up Augustine or Aquinas. It is not that all religions are the same. Some are extremely evil. But if people are already Christian it is hard to see what they would gain by changing to straight Torah. They might gain one or two things and lose others. And if people are Jewish well they already have the best thing. The fact that some people misuse Torah should not count against it. Abuse does not cancel use, as the Romans used to say.

3) I would like find an argument for Musar but the only one I can think of is that it helped me understand the Torah.  And to some degree I think it helped me work on my character traits.