Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
There are two types of Teshuva: Teshuva mi’Yirah and Teshuva mei’Ahava. The one called Teshuva mi’Yirah is motivated by awe and fear, which reduces the level of severity of the person who transgressed a mitzvah of the Torah. The other, called Teshuva mei’Ahava, is motivated by love of Torah and love of HaShem. According to Gemara Yoma (86b), in the opinion of Reish Lakish, Teshuva mei’Ahava can actually transform our sins into merits.
Rav Soloveitchik, in a Teshuva Drasha, expounded upon these two themes of repentance. Basing himself on the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva, the Rav described one type of Teshuva as a person who is suddenly struck with a need for instant change. The sinner, who senses that he is despised by HaShem, wants to completely eradicate his past and wants to instantly assume a new identity, becoming a different person and a closer friend to HaShem. This type of Teshuva is referred to as Tikun HaRa, repairing the evil.
But then there is another type of Teshuva, which is not an instantaneous feeling, but rather a part of a process. This individual does not want to forsake his past, but rather would take the talent and desires of his past which caused him to sin and redirect his energies to do the right thing. This type of Teshuva is referred to as HaAlaat HaRa, elevating the evil.
Gemara Avodah Zara (10b) states, “Yesh Koneh Olamo Besha’a Achat,” “There are those who acquire their share in the world-to-come in an instant.” Whether we do Teshuva instantly or gradually, whether we are motivated by Yirah or Ahava, the Ribbono Shel Olam is always willing to accept us and bring us closer to Him. Furthermore, we know that G-d is a “Potei’ach Yad Bi’teshuva Le’kabeil Po’she’im Va’cha’taim,” “He has an open hand for repentance, to welcome those who sinned.” When one feels he is drowning in sin and he cannot somehow remain afloat then HaShem is there with an outstretched hand to assist us.
Let us therefore take advantage of the opportunities we have, while we still can.