On Yom Kippur are we trying to do תשובה מאהבה or תשובה מיראה? Are we repenting because of love of Hashem or because of fear of Hashem?
Now my friends, let’s be honest and frank and candid and tell the truth. If a man is running out of a house that’s on fire, are we going to ask questions why he’s running? Get out! We don’t care how you do teshuva; do it any which way! We are not bodek your tzitzis if you’re running out of the house to save your life.
Teshuva mei’ahava is something that requires a very great preparation. To love Hashem is to most of us a very artificial and unreal concept. To be afraid of Hashem, to a certain extent that’s also unreal but since it’s more attainable, it’s more within our reach, so the first thing we think on Yom Kippur is that we want to live after Yom Kippur. “Ribono shel Olam, have pity on me! I’m so sorry for what I’ve done! I’ll be better!”
We see what happened to other people. All around us we have examples, chas ve’sholom, of great misfortune to individuals. That’s number one, “Spare us! שמע קולנו…חוס ורחם עלינו וקבל ברחמים וברצון את תפילתנו.” Cry out from whatever motivation you can. If you can think of as many examples of tragedies, chas ve’sholom, that you saw all around you and that’s your motivation, utilize it! Don’t despise that. Anything that will make your feet run faster out of the fire should be mustered. Any kind of energy that will make you cry out to Hashem and ask for forgiveness, utilize it.
After Yom Kippur you can sit down now and start thinking of ways and means of loving Hashem. That’s a big career and we speak a great deal about that here.
Now a lot of people, especially bnei Torah, don’t think in these terms. And they look down on people who are talking about loving Hashem because of what He is doing for them. Their minds are not accustomed to these thoughts. But they are missing out on one of the greatest forms of success in this life.
Learn to love Hashem that you don’t have a colostomy, a hole in your side. Love Hashem that you have a beautiful aperture where it’s supposed to be; it’s greased and it functions perfectly. Love Hashem for a normal rectum!
“Ah,” you say, “isn’t that silly?” You’ll go back to yeshiva and they’ll say “What were you talking about there? To love Hashem because of your rectum?!” They’ll laugh at that. All right, be a chochom; be a chochom if you want. But a man who has a colostomy, he thinks otherwise. “Oh Hashem,” he says, “I wish You would restore me to what I was before. How happy I would be! How I envy those people who live a normal life!”
And here is a man, you pass by him in the street; he is sentenced to riding around on wheels. He can never walk anymore. Love Hashem that you can walk! Learn to say every morning with great happiness “ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם המכין מצעדי גבר – You established the footsteps of a man.” It’s a trick to be able to walk upright, to balance yourself on your two legs. Isn’t that a wonderful achievement as your thighs swing effortlessly back and forth? You feel no pain in your thighs, and your knees flex and relax as your ankles bend and straighten out, as all the bones in your feet are working with lubrication between the joints.
Of course, even if you have, chas ve’sholom, arthritis, you should be happy too that you can walk. But if you don’t have any pains as you walk, it’s a joy to walk! A complicated mechanism with all kinds of pulleys and levers; muscles working one with another. Miracle upon miracle that they are all functioning perfectly. You can walk? That’s a great happiness!
So if somebody will say, “Thank Hashem because I can walk? Ha ha!”, he’s a letz! He’s ridiculing the great gifts of Hashem.
You have to learn that. That’s how to do teshuva mei’ahava. You can’t do teshuva mei’ahava just by saying, “I’ll decide to do teshuva mei’ahava.” You have to spend a lifetime of studying how fortunate you are. All the blessings that we receive along with the rest of Mankind are also blessings. And so when a person learns to be grateful to Hakodosh Boruch Hu when rain comes, that’s how he’ll be able teshuva mei’ahava. And he’s also grateful for the fact that the sun rises every morning! ברוך אתה ה’ יוצר המאורות. How many frum Jews go through that brocha and not once think what it’s talking about? And they’ll ridicule when they see somebody talking about thanking because of the sun, doing teshuva because he loves Hashem for the sunlight. They’ll laugh, “Ha ha.” But every morning you’re saying it! It’s the longest brocha in the siddur! So it means that you are living like a robot; you don’t even know what you’re saying. That brocha means gratitude. That’s teshuva mei’ahava.
But when it comes to Yom Kippur, the time is too short. Let’s say a man is drowning, and he’s a sick man. Let’s say he has heart disease, and he has cancer; he has lots of sicknesses and he’s drowning. And you are standing on the shore and you have a medical chart of all his illnesses. So you say, “Well, for his heart disease we have to give him a different diet. For his liver disease, I have this medication.” He’s drowning by the way! And you’re looking at the checklist! “And for his cancer we have to give him chemotherapy and so on.”
No, no! Forget about that! Hurl a rope out, throw a plank to him. Save him first of all. Number one is he needs to be rescued from the waters.
So on Yom Kippur the first objective is to be saved from the judgment of the Yom Hadin; any which way that will work! If the fear of the grave is effective, use it. Don’t care about it being only teshuva mei’yirah. Use it anyhow!
After Yom Kippur, settle down and work on getting even more yirah. Yirah is always important! More fear of the grave! Everybody wants to be alive. But in addition, study the happiness that Hashem gives you every day and all day, and little by little you’ll learn to love Hashem and then maybe next Yom Kippur or maybe twenty Yom Kippurs from now you’ll be doing also teshvua mei’ahava.
TAPE # 568 (September 1985)