Friday, September 3, 2010

Rav Kook's The Lights of Teshuva

Dara and I are giving a shiur this Shabbat. The topic is Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook on Teshuva. I'm handling the latter. This is the text of my handout. I used Ben Zion Bokser's translation as a guide, but I made my own changes and choices. 

To me, Rav Kook's thoughts are meaningful and powerful, especially at this time of year. I don't know how I could get through life without him.

Orot HaTeshuva
Chapter One:
We encounter the phenomenon of teshuva on three levels: 1) natural teshuva, 2) faith teshuva and 3) rational teshuva... 
Rational teshuva comes after [the previous two] have taken place. It represents the peak expression of teshuva... inspired not only by a natural malaise, physical or spiritual, or by the influence of religious tradition. (whether induced by fear of retribution or conditioned acceptance of some law or precept) Rather, it comes from a comprehensive outlook on life and the world... This teshuva, in which the previous are included, abounds in endless delight. It transforms past sins into spiritual assets. From every error it derives noble lessons, and from every fall it derives the inspiration for the climb to splendid heights. This is the type of teshuva to which all aspire, which must and will come.

Chapter Two:
In terms of time, teshuva is divided into two parts: sudden teshuva and gradual teshuva.
Sudden teshuva comes from a certain spiritual thunderbolt that enters the soul. At once the person senses all the evil and ugliness of sin and he is converted into a new being...
There is also a gradual for of teshuva... he feels that he must mend his way of life, his will, his patterns of thought. On this path he gradually acquires the ways of equity, corrects his morals, improves his actions...
The highest teshuva comes from a flash of illumination of the general good, the Divine Good which casts its light on all worlds, the light of eternity. The Universal Soul is revealed to us in all its majesty and holiness, to the extent that the human heart can absorb it. Isn't the All so good and noble, and the good and noble within us and expression of what connects us to the All? How then can we allow ourselves to be severed from the All, a strange crumb, detached like worthless dust?

Chapter Three:
There is teshuva aimed at a particular sin or many sins...
The person faces his sin, and feels remorse for falling into its trap... How anguished was the soul when burdened by sin, with its dark, vulgar and terribly oppressive weight upon her! How depressed she was, even it outer riches and honors fell fell to her!... And how she is now in the inner feeling that her sin has been forgiven, that the nearness of God is alive and shining within her, that her inner burden has been made lighter...

The other kind of teshuva is unspecified and general. No past sin or sins occur to him, but he feels generally depressed, pervaded by sin, that the Divine light does not shine on him, that there is nothing noble in him, that his heart is unfeeling, that his moral behavior does not follow the right course worthy of sustaining a meaningful life and a pure soul, that his state of education is crude...

Chapter Four:
3. General teshuva, which involves raising the world to perfection, and private teshuva, which applies to the personal life of every individual... all constitute one essence. Similarly, all cultural reforms through which the world rises from decadence, the improvements of social and economic order in every form of wrongdoing, from the most significant to the most minute... all constitute one inseprable whole.

Chapter Five:
6. Were it not for the thought of teshuva, its peace and security, a person would be unable to find rest, and spiritual life would not be able to evolve in the world. Man's moral instinct demands perfect good and justice. But how distance is the actualization of moral perfection, how weak he is to conform his behavior to the purity of the ideal, complete justice? How can he strive for that which is impossible to achieve? Therefore teshuva is natural to man, and perfects him. Although man is always prone to stumble and deviate from justice and morality, this does not damage his perfection, (wholeness?) since the essential foundation of his perfection is the constant striving and desire for perfection. This desire is the basis of teshuva, which always influences his path and perfects him.

Excerpts: (from the website – )

1) Why do we fall? Because we do not realize how easy teshuva is.
Orot Hateshuvah 14:4a

2) If you want to become completely righteous, you will find it hard to even repent.

But always desire to repent. Immerse yourself in the idea. Yearn to see the manifestation of teshuva in action. Then your teshuva will lift you to the level of a completely righteous person-and even higher.
Orot Hateshuvah, 14:36

3) A person who is constantly pained because of his sins and the sins of the world must always pardon and forgive himself and the entire world.

And in this he draws forgiveness and lovingkindness onto all of existence, and he gives joy to God and joy to people.

First he must pardon himself. And then he draws a general pardon onto everything, starting with that which is closest to him: the extensions of his roots from the aspect of his soul, his family, his friends, his nation, his generation, his world, and all worlds.

And in this he is a "foundation of the world" on the highest level, on the level of the Holy Tongue. And "a soft tongue can break the bone"-the bone of a donkey, "a bone that is evil on the outside"-so that all of the hidden good is revealed in everything.

And then he attains to the blessing of Abraham, whose likeness appears in every generation.
Arpelei Tohar, p. 54

4) Teshuvah derives from the aspiration of all existence to be more refined, stronger, and better than it is. Hidden in this desire is a life force that would overcome the limited dimension of being and its weaknesses. And the particular teshuvah of an individual, and all the more so of the community, draws its strength from this fount of life, which continually exercises its strength in never-ending action.
Orot Hateshuvah

1 comment:

Itzchak said...

if you're interested in Rav Kook, this should be of interest to you.