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ב"ה

The Story of Return - נצבים וילך

Friday, 11 September, 2020 - 1:47 pm

The Story of Return

After all the rebuke, in which we are told of the terrible calamities that will befall  the Jewish people during the exile, the Torah offers profound words of comfort and hope:  

And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you,

and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children,

then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, has dispersed you.

(Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

The Torah tells us that at the end of the long and bitter exile we will return to G-d with all our heart and soul and G-d will then bring us back to the land of Israel. This is the only time the Torah explicitly tells us about the concept of Teshuva, return to G-d. 

While Teshuva, the notion that a person can always return to G-d and correct his ways even after straying from the path of goodness, is an important theme in Judaism, the Torah does not explicitly state that there is a commandment to return to G-d. The Torah tells us that it will occur, “and it will be… and you will return to the Lord, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul”, but there is no commandment to return. That is why some of the great codifiers do not list Teshuva as one of the six hundred and thirteen commandments. 

How is it possible that something as fundamental as Teshuva is not classified as a commandment? 

Chasidic philosophy explains that Teshuva is not a commandment because it expresses a bond with G-d which is more profound than a commandment.  A commandment implies that the person being commanded must negate his own will and desire and fulfill the will of G-d. Teshuva however stems from the place in the soul of a Jew which wants nothing other than to cleave to its divine source. The Torah does not command Teshuva, for Teshuva can not be a commandment, after all the person in need of Teshuvah disregarded the commandment. The Torah tells us that Teshuva will inevitably occur. How can the Torah be so certain? It is because the Torah knows that within every Jew there is a soul which is a part of G-d. Sooner or later it will motivate the person to return, not because it is  commanded. For the soul does not need to be commanded. It senses that it is one with G-d and it wants nothing more than to reconnect. 

The exercise of Teshuva then, is to remove the layers of distraction and reveal our innate desire to be connected to  G-d.

Your connection to G-d is much more than a commandment. It is who you are. It is your story.  

(Adapted from the teachings if the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos, 38 Naso 1)

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