The Power of Teshuvah – Day 10
Attempting the Possible
Chava looked through the open window onto the backyard. There, she spotted 4-year-old David, standing on a picnic table clutching five helium balloons in his hand. With determination straining his pudgy face, he jumped up and down on the table. Over and over, he jumped, marshaled his energy, and jumped again.
“David, what are you doing?” Chava shouted.
“I’m trying to fly!” he proclaimed.
Had he not believed that five balloons possessed enough lift to carry him aloft, he would no doubt have quit his exhausting experiment after a few tries, if he had indeed tried at all. But he was convinced that it could be done, and therefore, he persisted.
It is our place to know that teshuvah can be done, for without that certainty, there would be no incentive to try. Certainly, there would be no incentive to persist when setbacks arise. However, when there is a vision of success spurring us on, we can strive to do teshuvah, or to pursue any goal.
Success, like failure, is an experience every person has had in several areas of life. Unfortunately, many people allow the failures to overshadow their successes, producing a self-image that is both gloomy and inaccurate. To embark on change we need compelling evidence that we can succeed; otherwise, why try?
The most reliable evidence is past success. When you pull those instances out of the shadows, you see that you have already come a long way: mastered many skills, developed many fine traits, taken upon yourself many important commitments and fulfilled them.
Once you strengthen your belief that you can succeed in general, you still must address your doubts about succeeding in teshuvah. Can you really become better? As we quoted earlier, the Torah guarantees that we can succeed:
“For the commandment that I command you today is not hidden from you and it is not distant … Rather the matter is very near to you — in your mouth and your heart — to perform it.”
If teshuvah is “very near,” why must the verse also state that “it is not distant”? Chofetz Chaim explains that the evil inclination attempts to tell us that teshuvah is distant. The verse responds, you are being persuaded that teshuvah appears to be ‘distant’ — far away from us. The truth is, however, that it is ‘very near.’
Hashem does not ask a person to perform the mitzvah of building a fence around his porch unless Hashem has first given him a house. Hashem does not ask one to wear tzitzis unless he first provides him with a garment.
Ramban explains that “in your mouth and in your heart — to perform it” confirms our ready access to teshuvah, for Hashem does not command a mitzvah unless it is beneficial and doable for every Jew.
Our history of personal successes tells us we can do it. The Torah tells us we can do it. Indeed, Hashem helps those who desire and who make an effort to repent. Armed with the belief that success is within our reach, we can open ourselves to our souls’ innate longing for Hashem, and fearlessly take the first small step forward.
Points to Ponder:
- One embarks on change only when he feels it is possible to succeed.
- The Torah does not command that which is impossible, therefore success in teshuvah is attainable.