In the first part of this essay, HaRav Man wrote that a
person must be aroused by the call of the shofar to do
teshuvoh. He called particular attention to the
general situation with its fear and terror of attack, and
quoted a letter written by the Chofetz Chaim in a comparable
situation. The latter wrote that Hashem has various ways to
send us messages and sometimes he uses the people of the
world. If we see the increasing strength of the middas
hadin we must return to Hashem. "The longer we wait to do
teshuvoh, the more His wrath will increase chas
vesholom, and everyone who has yiras Hashem in his
heart has an obligation to do teshuvoh.
Yet the essence of teshuvoh is not just altering one's
conduct, but actually changing one's ways, as the
nevi'im say, "Veya'azov rosho darko"
(Yeshayoh 54) and "Im echpotz bemos horosho ki im
beshuv rosho midarko vechoyoh" (Yechezkel 33). And
Dovid Hamelech writes, "Alameda posh'im darkecho"
(Tehillim 51:15), meaning a man must alter his path
and must be taught the correct path he should walk on.
Akeidas Yitzchok, Sha'ar 100 says that "those who
follow a wayward path have no hope, except to turn back from
their evil course, and to prepare the path that will help
them to improve, by doing teshuvoh. As it says in
Chapter One of Even Shleima, one must teach himself to
tilt every bad middoh to the opposite extreme."
Tenuas Hamussar, citing the Alter of Novardok, writes
that he who regrets his misdeeds and does not follow a new
path is like someone who boards a ship sailing west and in
the middle of the journey, changes his mind and decides he
wants to go east. But instead of switching to an eastbound
ship, he stays on the same ship and turns to the east rather
than west (Part 4, p. 253).
In another passage it says that he who does not change his
fundamental nature, and only alters his conduct
superficially, is like a midget who wakes up in the middle of
the night and claims that he has suddenly grown, citing his
bed as proof: Normally his legs do not reach the foot of the
bed, he explains, but now his body extends from one end to
the other. But when the lights go on, they reveal that
instead of lying along the length of the bed, he is now lying
along the width of the bed (p. 255).
One must also consider whether he should alter his ways in
areas of good conduct as well. In his book of
chiddushim on the Tanach the Brisker Rov,
commenting on the verse "Nachpeso darkeinu venachkora"
(Eichoh), writes, "According to Eruvin 13b, one
should literally feel out his deeds, i.e. one should even
examine whether his good deeds are truly good" (end of p.
His comments demonstrate that one must also scrutinize his
good deeds and his admirable ways to determine whether they
are truly good, or whether they should be altered or changed
Says the Alter of Novardok, "I never considered whether I
could do something or not, but whether I should
do something or not."
So certainly one must consider whether his deeds need to be
rectified, and if so he should know that he is capable of
The most effective form of teshuvoh is through
increasing or improving Torah study. As it says on the verse,
Kechu imochem devorim veshuvu el Hashem, "Says
HaKadosh Boruch Hu, `I demand devorim, and
there are no devorim besides divrei Torah'"
(Chapter 38). And in Tanna Devei Eliyahu it says, "Based on
this verse it is said, `Even if one's transgressions stack up
one on top of the other, and then he does teshuvoh,
says HaKodosh Boruch Hu, "I shall treat him with
rachamim and I shall accept his teshuvoh . . .
I shall forgive him for his sins" . . . And thus says
HaKodosh Boruch Hu to Yisroel, "Come, and bring
yourselves into the realm of Torah and speak to me using
words of Torah. Like a man speaking to his fellow, as it
says, Shuvoh Yisroel . . . kechu imochem devorim veshuvu
el Hashem'" (Chapter 9).
In Rosh Hashanah 32b, Rabi Chisda cites the
Yerushalmi, "Said HaKodosh Boruch Hu, `Since
you accepted the yoke of Torah, I will consider it as if you
have never sinned.' " And the Nefesh Hachaim says that
the essence of doing true teshuvoh sheleimoh with love
can only be accomplished through proper Torah study, noting
that in Shemoneh Esrei, the words "hashiveinu Ovinu
leSorosecho" precede "vehachazireinu biteshuvoh
sheleimoh lefonecho," for ahavas haTorah can cover
all sins" (Part IV, Chapter 31).
In Nidchei Yisroel, in his remarks on how to do
teshuvoh the Chofetz Chaim concludes, " . . . and
above all the ba'al teshuvoh should increase his Torah
study as much as possible" (Chapter 35). Even
Sheleimoh also says teshuvoh "requires two
elements: rectifying the past and the future. For the former,
Torah study and acts of chesed are better than any
form of self-affliction, and will atone for his sin. And for
the latter, the best advice is for him to work on yiras
Hashem by acknowledging that HaKodosh Boruch Hu
fills the entire world with His glory, and stands above him
and sees all of his foul deeds. And he should feel thoroughly
ashamed for transgressing His will right in front of Him
(Chapter 4)." And even more so he should engage in Torah
study on Shabbos, which has even greater seguloh, as
is written in the introduction to Rabbi Shimon
VeToraso, the Chazon Ish zt'l said that there are
profound sevoros in the Torah that are virtually
incomprehensible on weekdays, and can be penetrated only on
Shabbos Kodesh through the kedusha of
The Kedushas Levi, at the beginning of Parshas
Korach, cites the Ari z'l who says, "On Shabbos a
talmid can grasp what his rebbe taught him during the
Someone who does teshuvoh can go from darkness to
light in an instant, for on Shir Hashirim 5:3 Chazal
say, "Said HaKodosh Boruch Hu to Yisroel, `Bonai,
pischu li pesach echod shel teshuvoh kechudoh shel machat,
ve'ani posei'ach lochem pesochim, sheagolos veharonios
And the Pesikto says, "And teshuvoh is greater,
for someone who thinks about teshuvoh in his heart can
reach Kisei Hakovod instantly. According to
Kiddushin 49b, "Hamekadesh es ho'isho al menas
she'ani tzaddik, afilu rosho gomur -- mekudeshes," for he
might have contemplated doing teshuvoh in his heart.
This demonstrates that one can become a tzaddik
In Sha'arei Teshuvoh, explaining the reasons why one
is roused to return, Rabbeinu Yonah writes, " . . . such an
individual can go from darkness to light in an instant,
Sha'ar 2). Similarly the Chasam Sofer, in his
commentary on the verse, Kerochok mizrach mima'arov
hirchik mimeinu pesho'einu (Tehillim 103:12),
meaning, if someone stands facing the east, in the time it
takes to turn around to the west, he can change from a
rosho into a tzaddik.
Nefesh HaChaim says that the moment someone thinks a
pure thought about doing a mitzvah, his thought makes an
impression Above right away . . . and as a result a band of
light surrounds him (Sha'ar I, 12).
The Alter from Novardok would talk about the value of
teshuvoh, on the night of Yom Kippur, and on several
occasions he quoted the Rambam from Hilchos Teshuvoh,
Perek 7 Halocho 5: "Last night someone was despised by
Hashem, despicable, cast off and abominable. Today he is
loved and embraced fondly like a close friend."
Me'oros Hagedolos recounts how the Chofetz Chaim lost
his father at the tender age of 11 and was forced to confront
difficult nisyonos. The Haskoloh took an
interesting in recruiting "the Ilui of Jetel," as he
was known. On several occasions they tried to corrupt him.
They tried to talk to him and to exert an influence on him.
But the Chofetz Chaim was unwilling to listen. And he would
often tell people about his difficult struggles, mentioning
Chazal's saying, Yeish koneh olomo besho'o achas, for
everything depended on a single moment: the time it takes to
make a decision to go one way or the other.
At this time of year, one must increase his tefilloh,
with weeping and tears to entreat Hashem to help him to do
Seder Hayom says, "There are times when we must
intensify our prayers and supplications greatly, maintaining
separate times for Torah study" (p. 57), by which he means
these days are a time for tefilloh.
In Machaneh Yisroel the Chofetz Chaim cites the
Midrash Rabba, Perek Ki Seitzei on the verse, Kechu
imochem devorim veshuvu el Hashem . . . which says,
"Says HaKodosh Boruch Hu, `I demand devorim,
and there are no devorim except for Torah.' Replies
Yisroel, `We don't know any.' Says HaKodosh Boruch Hu,
`Cry and pray before me, for was it not through prayer that I
redeemed your forefathers . . . ?' " (Chapter 3).
Ma'alos Hamidos says, "Therefore bnei Yisroel
always knocked on the gates of repentance, weeping in tears.
For anyone who wants to draw near Hashem has no one standing
in his way. But HaKodosh Boruch Hu himself paves the
way for him" (Chapter on Ma'alos Hateshuvah).
And the Meiri on Bovo Metzia 59a writes, "Although
most prayers are certainly answered, when a prayer comes from
such a deep place in the heart that tears overcome him, it is
accepted even more readily. To clarify this point Chazal
said, `The day the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed the
gates of prayer were locked shut, but although the gates of
prayer were shut, the gates of tears were not shut.' "
In his sefer of letters and essays the Rosh Yeshiva
zt"l writes, "Torah learning has no substance if it is
accompanied, chas vesholom, by an element of disregard
for the mitzvah of tefilloh" (Vol. II, 91).
Therefore Chazal decreed that we add selichos and
supplications and pray to HaKodosh Boruch Hu that He
grant us forgiveness and help us do teshuvoh
HaGaon Rav Leib Chasman said, "People normally say they are
going to `say selichos,' which is not the way it
should be. It would be more correct for them to say they are
going to `request selichos.' " And if one feels that
his prayer has not been accepted, he should not despair, as
HaRav Yaakov Kanievsky zt'l writes in his sefer,
Chayei Olom, `Even if days or years go by in which it
seems that his prayers have been for naught, he should not
cease praying, for eventually he will realize that his
prayers have done tremendous good' (see Vol. 1, Chapter
After one has learned and absorbed advice to help him to do
teshuvoh, he should be aware that the most important
element is self-reflection and altering his ways. In Chapter
3 of Even Shleima it reads, "The way of Hashem must be
learned from talmidei chachomim. But the battle
against the yetzer requires more than good advice. The
only answer is to invent tricks of one's own."
In Chapter 2 of Sha'arei Teshuvoh Rabbeinu Yonah
writes, "Let us conclude with a saying by chachmei
Yisroel, Im ein ani li, mi li, ukeshe'ani le'atzmi moh
ani, ve'im lo achshov eimosai (Pirkei Ovos 1:4).
This means if someone does not wake up, what good will
mussar do, even though he took it to heart when he
heard it or learned it? The yetzer will cause him to
forget and will drive it out of his heart . . . He should not
rely on admonitions alone, but should use them as an interim
measure until he assimilates the mussar and purifies
My grandfather, HaRav Hillel Witkind, whose yahrtzeit
was just last week, was one of the pioneers of the Novardok
yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel. I remember he would say in the
name of his rav muvhak, the Alter of Novardok, that
the harshest gezar din one can receive it to remain
HaRav Moshe Man is rosh yeshivas Be'er Yitzchok.