We are now beginning the third week of the month of Elul. Two of your four weeks of preparation should now be completed. This third week is dedicated to understanding the principles behind the teshuva process and the Selichos process.


You are 16 years old and your father has told you to take out the garbage. This is the job you hate most in the world. So you acknowledge that you heard what he said, and then you walk out of the house to go to school without doing it. When you arrive home, your father calls you into the room and asks you why you didn’t take out the garbage. You reply that you forgot and you will do it. But then you start thinking about the smelly garbage room and the bugs. You go to sleep without taking it out.

The next morning your father asks again why you didn’t take out the garbage. You apologize profusely and then go to school without taking it out.

When you arrive home, your father calls you again and asks you why you didn’t take out the garbage. This time you know that you are in trouble, ”Son, I want you to know that you have done something really wrong. The issue is not that you haven’t taken the garbage out for these three times. The issue is that you have hurt our relationship. Three times you told me that you would do it and each time you promised me. Now I know one thing; I cannot trust your word anymore. This shows that, on a certain level, you don’t respect me or value our relationship. I want you to think over what you have done and decide what you need to do to rectify the wrong you have done.

Your father’s words really make an impression. Now you really feel bad. It finally hit you what you have done. You want to return to your father and tell him you are sorry. It is not so simple in this case to just say you are sorry. There is something more serious involved here. You have damaged your credibility with your father. Just saying you are sorry is not enough to repair the damage.

So you decide to make a plan. After thinking about what you did, you decided to take the following steps:

Step One-You sincerely feel regret for what you have done. You will not try to push away these feelings of regret over what you have done but rather you will let yourself use them in order to spur you to take the steps necessary to change.

Step Two-You will listen to your father. Until you get forgiveness from him you will make sure to listen to everything else that he asks of you.

Step Three-You will go to him and ask forgiveness for what you have done. You will tell him that you are sorry.

Step Four– You will tell him that you have made a decision to listen to his instructions and will not procrastinate any longer.

The next day you go to your father and explain how sorry you are, and that in the future you promise to listen to him immediately when asked to do something. You pour out your heart to him and beseech him to forgive you. Upon seeing your great sincerity and change in attitude, your father wholeheartedly forgives you and warmly welcomes you back into his good graces.

What has occurred here? You have restored your relationship with your father. You have taken a situation of a wounded relationship with him and turned it around. Because you took the time to think it out and sincerely change, you were accepted back by him with joy.


When someone does a transgression against G-d he is, in effect, harming the relationship between himself and his Father-in-Heaven. Therefore, he needs to repair the damage to the relationship. The methodology of this repair is known as the process of teshuva. The Chovos HaLevavos (The Duties of the Heart)’ Shaar Teshuva, in Chapter 4 explains this process in depth. (All text in bold print is from the Duties of the Heart):


The essential steps of teshuva are four:

  1. Regret-That the returnee should regret the sins already committed;
  2. Abandonment-That he should renounce and abandon them;
  3. That he should confess them and beseech forgiveness for having committed them.
  4. That he should firmly pledge with all his heart and soul not to repeat them.


Regret Is a sign that his evil deed is repulsive In his eyes.

How does regret enhance the ability to restore your relationship with someone?

We observe among people that the exhibition of regret for a wrong one has done to his neighbor is a strong ground for granting forgiveness.

Strong regret is often enough to stimulate the whole process of teshuva. When someone is trying to repair a relationship, if the offending party has no regret for what he did, it is very hard to fully forgive him.


Without abandoning the sin during the teshuva process, the process won’t work. Can you imagine trying to ask forgiveness from someone while you are wronging him at the same time.

We observe among people that if one has wronged his neighbor and, after expressing regret, ceases to wrong him, it is proper to forgive and overlook the transgression.


Beseeching forgiveness is a sign of the sinner’s humility and submissiveness before G-d and confession of iniquity is a ground for forgiveness.

How exactly does this restore one’s relationship with someone?

We observe among people that if one sinned against his neighbor, and then humbles himself before him, openly confesses that he sinned, and wronged him, and beseeches forgiveness, and the neighbor realizes that the sinner regrets his sin he had committed, he will not withhold his pardon and will overlook the transgression, and the grudge in his heart will be removed.


Finally, pledging not to repeat the offense Is a sign that he realizes the negativity of his conduct and the enormity of his sin.

How does this restore one’s relationship with someone?

We observe among people that when one who sinned against his neighbor pledges himself not to wrong the latter again, and shows that he regrets and abandons his sin, and confesses it, this will complete the grounds for forgiveness and secure removal of his transgression and remission of his punishment.


It is clear from the Chovos HaLevavos that returning to the Al-mighty involves the same process as making up with a person that you have wronged. In each of these four steps of teshuva we see it parallels the same steps that one would use to restore a human relationship. Teshuva is returning to G-d in the same way as you fix up a relationship with a person.


Many people are confused as to what teshuva really is. They think the word teshuva means change. So when they say, “I did teshuva they really mean “I have changed.” But we see from Chovos HaLevavos that it is not so simple. You might have changed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have done complete teshuva. When you do a transgression against G-d, your relationship with Him suffers a setback. You push Him farther away with every negative act. So teshuva means bringing back your relationship to where it was prior to the transgression.

So obviously the questions you have to ask yourself are: Where is your relationship with G-d now? Do you have one? Do you feel His presence? Do you’ love Him? Do you feel far away from Him? By working through the steps of teshuva regularly, one will find that his relationship with the Al-mighty will be radical­ly improved and brought to a new level of connection and oneness.

In tomorrow’s sheet, we will be exploring some of the most frequently asked questions about the four steps of teshuva.