The Power of Teshuvah – Day 14
As an infant, Yehoshua ben Chananyah’s mother would bring his cradle to the study hall every day so that his ears would absorb the Torah being learned there. Eventually, he became one of the greatest Talmudic Sages of his generation. His mother knew that it wasn’t the occasional, dramatic event that would form her child’s character; rather, it was the small things, done consistently, which would shape his spiritual identity and determine his future.
With rare exceptions, all great achievements begin with small steps, and proceed through persistence and consistency. Teshuvah is no exception. The first small step we take constitutes a true breakthrough and a new beginning.
When we purchase a house or a car, we give a deposit to reserve our option to buy. How can a seller accept a small amount, perhaps just $500, as adequate incentive to hold the car for us? How can the seller of a house accept just 10 or 15 percent of the price of his home as sufficient to withdraw it from the market?
The deposit money is indeed a mere fraction of the entire amount that will be paid when the deal goes through. It is enough, however, to signal that we are serious. It is too significant an amount to forfeit, and so the seller accepts. Thus, that small amount changes reality, putting us in a completely different position than we would have been in had we not made the deposit.
In the same way, our first small step toward Hashem changes the situation far more than would seem possible. We have major strides to take, and yet, we do something small, and based on that, everything is different. We have reversed direction and come closer — even one small step closer — to Hashem. We have embarked on the road to complete teshuvah, the most meaningful journey of our lives.
Today, Atlanta, Georgia has a Jewish community that boasts all the basic amenities of a flourishing frum community: a cheder, Bais Yaakov, a kollel, a mikveh; you name it, they have it. But when Rabbi Emanuel Feldman became the rabbi in the late 1950’s, there was not even one minyan of Shabbos-observant Jews. The Yom Kippur after assuming his post, Rabbi Feldman spoke to the congregants, and said, “I want everyone in this room to keep one thing, for one year.”
If the thriving religious community in Atlanta was built on baby steps toward Hashem, then we can certainly build our teshuvah in that manner.
A man once complained bitterly to Rav Yecheskel Levenstein that he was unable to do teshuvah. The Mashgiach told him, “Start by being careful of what you look at on just one street.” The man returned to say that he was unable to do even that. The Mashgiach implored him, “Be careful only at the beginning of the street, and with that you will eventually succeed.”
There is no such thing as a step toward Hashem that is insignificant. We can never lose by trying; we can only lose by standing still. Each millimeter closer brings us infinite reward and strength for the next step.
Points to Ponder:
- One small step toward teshuvah changes our status.
- Even the smallest change is worthwhile.
- Lasting progress in spiritual matters is effected through consistent, small steps.