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#36 Repentance as Natural to Human Nature and Human Life
Glimmerings of Penitence 5:6

Were it not for the thought of repentance,

the peace and safety it offers,

the human being could never get a break1,

and spiritual life could never develop in the world.

Man's innate moral instinct demands justice and goodness of him: perfection.

[But] how unlikely it is for any human being to actually accomplish moral perfection!

And how feeble is [Man’s] capacity

to align his actions with the purity of the ideal of absolute justice!

And how could he aspire toward something totally beyond his capacity?

Because of this [huge gap between Man’s yearning for wholeness

and his incapacity to behave perfectly],

Teshuva is inherent in Man’s design2 – and it makes him whole.

If Man is always likely to trip up, to be defective when it comes to justice and morality,

this does not damage his own perfection,

because the main element of human perfection

is the yearning and constant desire for perfection.

And this desire [for perfect wholeness] is the origin of Teshuva,

which is always directing a person's path in life, and truly perfecting him.

עברית +/-


  1. Limtzo’ manoach, literally, ‘to find a place to rest,’ a phrase resonant with Gen. 8:9, “and the dove [sent out by Noah] found no resting place,” i.e., a branch on which to alight and rest amidst the vast floodwaters that covered Earth. There was no branch because even the tallest trees were covered by water. And ‘the human being could never get a break’ seeks to incorporate this, in the sense that without repentance, Man, always amidst the unending floodwaters of life, would have no place to pause, to settle, to review the journey so far and take stock of what it has birthed; to evaluate, perhaps to change direction. And ‘get a break’ also points to the fact that were it not for repentance there would be no forgiveness, no escape, no new starts: Man would be guilty and doomed early in life and would stay that way forever. The Rambam puts it thus: “For no person escapes sin…and if a person believes there is no way to ever heal this sickness, he would continuously walk in the shadows of his [sinful] acts; and he might even add to his sins if he knows he has no hope and no way out. But when he has [awareness of the possibility of] repentance, he will mend his deeds and turn round towards betterment and be more peaceful than he was before his sin” (Moreh Nevuchim 3:36). Back to text
  2. HaTeshuva hi tiv‘it le’Adam, literally, ‘repentance is natural to Man.’ This means (at least) that spirituality – the yearning for perfection, for wholeness – is inherent in humanity. Teshuva is as original an instinct as is the instinct for physical survival. Teshuva was created before the world (Bereishit Rabba 1:4, s.v. Berei’shit bara’) and is inherent in all creation (See Glimmering #33, “Teshuva: The Song of Natural Processes”) as well as in Man. Back to text
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