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Nitzavim - A Guide to Teshuvah (Repentance)
By Rabbi Shmuel Ani
"You shall return to the L-rd your G-d"
Moshe informed the Jews that even if they abandoned the Torah and were plagued with calamities, they could still regain Hashem's favor if they repented.
To do so, they had to:
A) Declare that their sinful ways are wrong
B) Regret what we did, and
C) Actively change them
Teshuvah, the returning to Hashem's fold, is not a simple matter.
It often requires a lengthy and difficult process, complete with frustrations and backslidings.
It sometimes takes place in stages; success in improving one aspect of our behavior gives us the impetus to proceed further.
One should never become so frustrated by the lack of progress that he gives up the battle for Teshuvah entirely.
As long as one is alive, there is still time for repentance. As our Sages say, "repent one day before your death."
A man once asked a Rabbi, "How do I do this? How do I know when I will die?"
"That is exactly the point," replied the Rabbi. "No one knows when he or she will die; thus, one should start doing Teshuvah immediately."
The Baal Shem Tov noted that if a place is pitch black and one enters it with a candle, the darkness disappears. By the same token, if a person repents, even if he sinned before and sullied his soul, he becomes a new creature. If we return sincerely, we will reach all the way "to the L-rd our G-d."