Thursday, September 13, 2018

Rav Kook's heirarchy of types of teshuvah

The gemara (R"H 16b) writes that there are 4 things which can cause a gzar din to be ripped up and nullified: 1) tzedaka; 2) tzea'ka (i.e. tefilah); 3) shinuy ha'shem (i.e. changing one's identity, personality); 4) shinuy ma'aseh, which Rashi explains to mean "shav mei'ra'aso," repenting from one's evil ways.

Rashi is difficult.  M'mah nafshach: if a person truly repents from his evil ways, then that alone should suffice for teshuvah.  But if a person does not repent from his evil ways, then all the tzedaka, tzea'ka, and shinuy shem will not help.  So all 4 items really boil down into one (see Ritv"a).

I would like to suggest the following hesber:

Rav Kook opens Orot Teshuvah by teaching us that there is a hierarchy of three different types of teshuvah:

1) Teshuvah that comes through teva, human nature.  This can be broken into two subcategories:
A) Physical teva -- a smoker who gives up his cigarettes because he realizes that smoking is bad for his health is doing this type of teshuvah.
B) Moral teva -- guilt can eat away at a person's kishkes. and keep a person up at night.   The desire to restore one's moral and psychological health is part of teva.  Think of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and I think you have an idea of what Rav Kook means here. 

2) Teshuvah of emunah -- it doesn't come from within a person, but rather the external force of religion, social norms, etc. cause person to want to fall into line.  A person does not want to live in discord with what the outside world tells him is right and good.

3) Tehuvah of the seichel -- this is the highest form of teshuvah.  This is repentance that comes not from physical or psychological discomfort, not from the pressure to conform to outside norms, but rather the intellectual realization that one's values and life goals are discordant with what is true and ethical, and therefore, one must change.  

(BTW, it seems that these three avenues roughly correspond with the Maharalian triad of guf, nefesh and seichel.  Maybe you can figure out a way to fit the avodah of the three Avos into these boxes as well.)

When Rashi writes "shav mei'ra'aso," he is not explaining WHAT the person is doing -- he is explaining WHY the person is doing teshuvah.  Rashi is explaining that we are talking about a person doing teshuvah because he cannot live with his own evil, a teshuvah of teva, because things are eating away at his kishkes.  We are speaking about a person who is running away from the evil within and looking for an escape.  You might have though that only a higher form of teshuvah would be sufficient to remove a gzar din.  Kah mashma lan our sugya that even the lowest form of teshuvah suffices to do the job.

1 comment:

  1. "(R"H 16b)"

    although the proof text* there suggests that "2) Teshuva of emuna" is operative, that is, Yonah 3:5,7, and also teshuva 3) seichel (3:9, mi yo'deah), the same text does support the why of teshuva 1)B) too, insofar as Yonah walked only one of three days into Nineveh (3:3,4)!

    *can Yonah 3:7,8 help us to understand the required rest of Israelite animals on Shabbos [and every Shabbos is "Shabbos shuvah"]? its either a dormant donkey one day a week, or someday that same donkey in sackcloth and ashes (and maybe even listening to Tehillim)!