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Noahide Teshuvah: Repentance

By Shlomo Phillips © September 5, 2017


First, teshuvah is "repentance"

Repentance is the biblical concept of changing course, from ceasing to do what is wrong to embracing what is correct. For Noahides teshuvah is as important as it is for Jews. There are certain rites that Jews do as "the nation of priests" (Exodus 19:6) that are not required for Noahides, and some that are specifically only for Jews, however everyone should practice teshuvah

Teshuvah is only possible because humans have free will and a dual nature through which to exercise choice. When a person has been following his/her yetzer ha-ra or selfish inclination and decides to abandon that, to rectify his course and to embrace yetzer tov (the way of selflessness), that person will make teshuvah, the person will "repent" and change course.

When a person has been engaged in any form of yetzer ha-ra and decides to make teshuvah he/she will naturally feel sorry for his previous course of action. Realizing he was in the wrong, the person will naturally seek forgiveness, both from the person wronged and from HaShem; in this order.

It is of no use to seek HaShem's forgiveness for wrongs done to another if we have not sought to make things right with the person we offended. So first, go to the person. If the offense included material wrongdoing seek to make it right, an "eye for eye" (so to speak). If we took what was not ours, we return or replace it. If the offense was committed with harsh or uncaring words, if we caused hurt feelings, we ask for the person's forgiveness and seek to reverse those feelings. In the case of lashon hara, our sincere teshuvah may need to be more public in order to undo the damage. In most cases we seek forgiveness and make restitution privately. Public displays of "righteousness" and "repentance" are seldom motivated by a spirit of yetzer tov. "Show bottle spiritualists" are an ever present scourge on humanity!

Only then (or after this rectification) do we seek the forgiveness of HaShem and the "heavenly Court."

What if the person refuses to accept our sincere apology, or even mocks us for the attempt? Traditionally we make three sincere attempts at rectification. If the person refuses to grant us forgiveness, we have done our duty. We release any lingering negative feelings we may have toward the person or incident, including the person's decision not to forgive us (he/she has that right), and we seek HaShem's forgiveness.

What if seeking forgiveness could place us in danger? There are situations in which reopening "wounds" could be more negative than positive. The principle is always to protect life. Don't do teshuvah to make yourself feel better. Do teshuvah for the sake of (re)establishing shalom, peace. Common sense is applicable in all things.

Elul and the High Holy Days

During the month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, HaShem is "in the fields." During this period especially HaShem is seeking to grant us pardon! We normally think of HaShem as our King, our Judge, our Master, sitting on His Throne of Righteousness. Many people hold Him in such a state of awe that they fear approaching Him. But during the Days of Awe leading up to the Day of Atonement, HaShem "walks among us." He appears in common garb, as our neighbor, our friend, our spouse, our own kids. During these Days of Awe especially, HaShem is near by, Jew or non-Jew, and we can all easily attain His forgiveness by seeking the forgiveness of those with whom we interact throughout the day. When your fellow forgives you, it is really HaShem who is forgiving you! So be humble and ask for forgiveness from anyone and everyone who might conceivably have something against you, no matter how large or how small. This includes our online contacts, some of whom are easily offended by unintended words or thread comments.

Don't seek to justify yourself, simply apologize:

"I'm sorry I was rude to you, but you have to admit, you were being a jerk!"
This is not an apology! "I'm sorry I offended you when I said .... when I did....".

Keep it simple and sincere.

What if another person has wronged you? Forgive! Even if the person does not ask. Once you have released your pent up resentments, anger, etc. toward the offender, release these feelings completely and forgive! Then, approach HaShem and ask His forgiveness for any possible part you may have played that lead the perceived wrong. Ask HaShem to forgive you and the other person for the wrong(s) and for any remaining negative feelings about you, the incident, etc. Ask that the person be blessed and that HaShem might find a way for the return to shalom with the person. Remember that everything comes from HaShem and so everything that happens takes place for our ultimate soul correction and good. So Baruch HaShem! Through this perceived wrong I am being blessed! Please, HaShem, bless the person through whom You have blessed me!

Our Sacred Texts teach:

"I, yea I erase your transgressions for My sake, and your sins I will not remember" -- Isaiah 43:25

For, as the height of the heavens over the earth, so great is His kindness toward those who fear Him
As the distance of east from west, He distanced our transgressions from us.
As a father has mercy on sons, the Lord had mercy on those who fear Him.
For He knows our creation; He remembers that we are dust...
But the Lord's kindness is from everlasting to everlasting, and His charity to sons of sons -- Psalm 103:12-18.

Who is a God like You, Who forgives iniquity and passes over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His anger forever, for He desires loving-kindness
He shall return and grant us compassion; He shall hide our iniquities, and You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.
You shall give the truth of Jacob, the loving-kindness of Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from days of yore -- Micah 7:18.

Seek HaShem while He may be found, call out to Him when He is near.
The wicked shall give up his way, and the man of iniquity his thoughts, and he shall return to the Lord, Who shall have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon
-- Isaiah 55:6,7.

The Most Important Thing

Every single day approach HaShem in hitbodedut (private heartfelt prayer). Thank Him for all the good He allowed you to do today, be specific. Openly acknowledged to Him everything you did wrong, be specific, whether in thought, word or action. Ask Him to forgive these sins and shortcomings and to help you overcome your desires to sin in the future. Ask HaShem to help you conduct your affairs properly as you should from now on. Do everything in your power to clear the books of judgement through right action and through prayer! In this way, you will cleanse your consciousness, remove stress, improve your relationships with the world around you, and most importantly, you will attach yourself ever more firmly to HaShem.

Got Questions or Comments?

Let me know

Be the Blessing you were created to be
And
Don't let the perfect defeat the good


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