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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#42 Incorporating God’s Mothering Love and Encouragement
8Collections 2:231; Glimmerings of Penitence 7:6; Patches of Clarity 8

We must deeply probe what we believe about Teshuva1

and become certain [about this aspect of its nature]

that with even just an upwelling thought-image of repentance2

we mend a great deal in our personal self and in the world.3

[And once a person is certain of this,]

he will inevitably feel happier after every thought he has of positively changing his life4,

more pleased with himself than he was before;

and even more so when his imagining reaches a contemplation of Teshuva,

and is joined by Torah and wisdom and reverence for heaven;

and most of all when the quality of divine love pulses in his soul.

And he should be kind to himself5, and comfort his estranged6 soul,

and strengthen her with every kind of encouragement in the world,

for this is God’s word:

“Like a man whose mother comforts him, so shall I comfort you.“7

And if he should find in himself sins that he has committed against other people8

and his power is too weak to rectify them,

he must nonetheless not lose any faith at all9 in the huge healing power of Teshuva,

for certainly any offences [he has committed] against God for which he has repented

have already been forgiven;

and, since this is so,

one may consider those remaining elements that he has not yet rectified

as being nullified by the majority10,

because major portions of his sins have already been wiped away by his repentance.

And, nonetheless, he must not slacken his effort

to be very careful not to stumble into any sin against another person,

and to repair all that he can from the past, using wisdom and much spiritual courage:

“Escape like a deer from the hand [of a hunter] and like a bird from the hand of a trapper.“11

But he must not lose heart12 over those pieces which he has not yet been able to fix;

instead, let him cling to the protection of Torah and serving God wholeheartedly,

with joy, with awe and with love.

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Footnotes

  1. Leha‘amik me’od be’Emunat haTeshuva, literally, ‘to probe deeply into the belief [system] of Teshuva.’ Back to text
  2. Hirhur, ‘innervoicing’ (as opposed to dibbur, ‘voicing or reciting aloud’), means ‘thinking to oneself, meditating, musing, reflecting, pondering, planning, imagining, fantasizing.’ Hirhur is the verbal noun of h-r-h-r, which is probably related to h-r-y, ‘to conceive, to become pregnant,’ thus ‘to conceive in mind or heart’ (see Is. 59:13), as well as to har, mountain (swelling). Hirhur is the upwelling of ideas and images out of the flux of mind. Hirhurim may be negative (hirhurei ‘avera are unchaste thoughts and fantasies; hirhurei ‘avoda zara (Berachot 12b) are idolatrous imaginings). Thus, hirhurim can be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but what they always are is non-verbal, internal, personal and private. Here, hirhur Teshuva might include images of the person you wish you were, acting truly like you wish you could; a fantasy of apologizing to those you’ve wronged; a flash of regret, or the wish to start all over again from the beginning and get it right. Back to text
  3. Mind images have an effect on reality. That the nature of the Self can be altered by its thoughts is not metaphoric. In Jewish law, even the possibility that someone may have imagined something can have legal consequences: “[A man who says (the marriage formula) ‘you are consecrated to me,’ (adding)] ‘on the condition that I am a righteous man,’ even if he is a totally evil person, she is his wife, for he may have had imaginings of repentance. [And a man who says ‘you are consecrated to me,’ (adding)] ‘on the condition that I am a bad man,’ even if he is a totally righteous person, she is his wife, for he may have had imaginings of idolatry” (Kiddushin 49b). See, also, Glimmering #55, “Honoring the Sacred Power of Thought.” Back to text
  4. Teshuva. Back to text
  5. VeYirtzeh et ‘atzmo, literally, ‘be favorable to himself, accept himself, love himself.’ Back to text
  6. Hanahala’a, a hapax legomenon in Mic. 4:7, “She who was cast far off,” means ‘banished, outcast, removed.’ Perhaps denominated from the adverb hal’ah, ‘further, farther, beyond.’ Back to text
  7. Is. 66:13 Back to text
  8. Chata’im shebein ’adam lechavero, literally, ‘sins between man and his fellow man.’ Back to text
  9. Al yitya’esh klal, literally, ‘he must not despair at all.’ Back to text
  10. Batel berov, an halachic category denoting the nullifying effect of purity on intermingled impurity, e.g., when a bit of forbidden food spills into permitted food, its impure effect is ‘nullified by the majority [food]’. Back to text
  11. Prov. 6:5. Perhaps Rav Kook chose this verse, Hinatzel keTzvi miYad ukeTzippor miYad yakush, to express his two-pronged advice – of heightened vigilance in the present and careful repair of the past – because of its nuanced play on the word miyad (‘from the hand’), which also means ‘immediately’ in Hebrew. Rav Kook would then be reading the verse as “Escape immediately, like a deer [from sins between you and your fellowman in the present] and like a bird from the hand of a trapper [from the clutch of the past].” Back to text
  12. ’Al yipol libo ‘alav. Cf. I Sam. 17:32, i.e., don’t lose heart even if your opponent is Goliath, apparently huge and unconquerable. Back to text
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