The Power of Teshuvah – Day 26

Day 26

A Public Service

The Jewish nation were given 613 mitzvos while non-Jews have seven. Yet if a Jew transgresses just one of the 613, he is considered a sinner.

What makes a Jew’s relatively minuscule transgression cast so great a shadow on his soul? Consider the impact of a grain of sand blown by the wind. If it lands on your hand, you may not even feel it. If however, it lands in your eye, you are in agony. A hand and an eye are both essential, but they have different strengths and sensitivities. The same applies to a Jew and a non-Jew. While both are Hashem’s wondrous creations, they have different strengths and sensitivities to suit their different tasks in the world.

To all but the very greatest tzaddikim, the impact of a sin in the spiritual world is rarely visible here on earth. Yet it is no less real than the impact of invisible radiation or carbon dioxide let loose in the world. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the detrimental effects begin at the very moment of sinning, as conveyed in the Torah’s warning:

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse … And the curse: if you do not listen to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today …

Hashem has given the Jewish people a sensitive position in a vast, universal operation, trusting us to have faith in His leadership and to do our part to the best of human ability.

A 17-year veteran employee in Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant was asked if he knew whether Israel has an atom bomb. He answered, “Believe me, I don’t have a clue what I am working on. I sit in a cubicle with a window. An object is passed through the window with instructions on what to do with it. It could be for a bomb, it could be for a table. I have no way of knowing.”

Like this worker, who knows only that he is a vital cog in a complex system, we know that we are working within Hashem’s complex universe. Any deviation from His instructions — our Torah — damages the entire system.

Our deeds affect our individual fates, yet, we are not acting only as individuals. A Jew’s actions impact the entire universe.

Rav Yisroel Salanter once remarked that time wasted from Torah study in the holy city of Kovno causes Shabbos desecration in the secularized homes of France.

Teshuvah not only influences the judgment God passes on each of us, but also judgment on the world collectively. Furthermore, all the people who could have prevented our sins are spared their responsibility for our actions when we erase the sin through teshuvah.

In far-greater measure than sin brings troubles to our world, teshuvah brings blessing. Teshuvah leads us to new heights, inspiring our Sages to say, “In the place where baalei teshuvah stand, even the completely righteous are not able to stand.”

The one who does teshuvah, despite having experienced the “pleasure” of following his impulse, takes hold of himself and breaks away from the sin for the sake of repairing his relationship with Hashem. That is why he is so beloved, and his teshuvah possesses a power that can elevate the worlds.

Points to Ponder:

      • Every Jew has a specific, highly sensitive role in Hashem’s supervision of the universe.
      • By transgressing, we damage the functioning of the world.
      • Teshuvah not only repairs our own situation, but helps to bring a positive judgment to the world.

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