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Coming clean

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One of the basic tenets of coming back to God is confession. (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 1:1). In Torah 178 Rebbe Nachman astutely acknowledges that there are many impediments holding us back from articulating our mistakes. Sometimes we forget them or sometimes they weigh so heavily on us that it’s hard to admit in words. So what can we do to ensure that we confess our misdeeds and be forgiven?

You’re not gonna believe this…

The Rebbe says we need to arouse in ourselves the joy of the mitzvah of confession. What joy is there in admitting fault? Am I supposed to sing and dance because I sinned? That not only sounds weird but it sounds insensitive. Here I severed a very special relationship with my actions and now I’m overjoyed in admitting it?

Here’s how I understand it. We’re not happy that we caused a breach in our relationship with God. But we should be happy that he gave us a way to come back to Him. It’s a pleasure, comfort and relief that we can be forgiven for the mistakes we made.

A little bit different from how we always picture confession.


He goes on to say that the root of all the mitzvos is joy. What an amazing statement! A Mitzvah means to connect or join with Hashem. There is no greater joy than being attached to our God. The core of every mitzvah is joy, even the seemingly sad ones, such as confession or the prescribed mourning period. Because of Hashem’s great kindness, he guides us with tools to come close to Him in any situation. That’s reason to be very happy.

I’d like to take this one step deeper. Rav Tzadok Hakohen writes (Takanas Hashavin page 39): “The essence of returning to God is understanding that your mistakes become your merits. Meaning, that you fully recognize and understand that every one of your sins was also the will of God”. (Now clearly this statement can be misunderstood. If all my sins are the will of God, then why should I even attempt not to sin? This is a deep question with a good answer, but it’s beyond the scope of this article). But what he’s teaching is that there’s nothing else besides the will of God. Therefore, although – of course – we need to protect the mitzvos with all our might, if we disregard them it was God’s will that we neglected them. That’s real teshuva, affixing oneself to the oneness of God. This can also be what Rebbe Nachman finds joyous in confession. We wish we didn’t mess up but now that we did, we utterly accept that everything was under his direction and providence. That awareness attaches us to God and is reason to be merry!

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