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How is Teshuvah Done? It All Begins With a Smile: 10 Important Facts

1. Mitzvos need to be done with joy, even the mitzvah of repentance. When someone repents through their love of God all of their sins are turned into merits (Yuma, 86b). This alone is reason enough to do this precious mitzvah with joy. But even more, the mitzvah of repentance is so powerful it rips apart the person’s judgment that was issued against him (Rosh Hashanah, 17b), and, among other things brings a blessing of abundance to the world.

2. The first phase of repentance is faith. “Nothing is necessary for faith”, explains Rabbi Shalom Arush. “Begin by telling the Creator: Father in Heaven I want to come close to you. Give me faith that You are listening to me. I want to ask one thing of You, please do it for me.”

3. The Evil Inclination attempts to weaken the will of someone who comes to repent. And he tries to convince him there is no real purpose to his repenting since the Creator is so great and exalted while man is so lowly and sinful. And therefore the Creator has no need for our repentance. It is incumbent on the person who is seeking to repent before the Creator that they deeply feel and believe with all their heart that the Creator wants his repentance and is looking forward to it.

4. The parshah of repentance is written in chumash Devarim, and it says in the book “Sefer Yeraim” that it is appropriate to recite it every day. 
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After reciting these verses some add the following prayer: “May it be Your will, Hashem my God and the God of my fathers, that You dig a tunnel beneath Your throne of glory to bring back all of the sinners among Your people, the house of Israel, in complete repentance. And bring me back together with them in complete repentance before You, for Your right hand is stretched forth to accept penitents, and You desire repentance. Amen, selah.”

5. The entire book of Jonah is dedicated to the theme of repentance. And its purpose is to teach every generation that repentance helps remove any existing evil decree, even in the case where severe sins are concerned. And this is not just true for Jews but for all of the world’s nations.

6. Repentance is a positive commandment, and is mentioned in parshas Nitzavim: “And you shall return to Hashem your God…for this is the commandment that I am commanding you today.” Ramban explains that by “this is the commandment” the verse means the commandment of repentance.

7. Verbalizing one’s sins is called confession, and this too is a positive commandment. Rambam writes: “When a person transgresses any commandment in the Torah whether on purpose or by accident, whether a positive commandment or a negative one, when he repents of his sin is obligated to confess before God, as it states: ‘When a man or a woman will do… and they confess the sin that they have done’ (Bamidbar, 5:5-7). This refers to a verbal confession, and it is a positive commandment.” (Mishnah Torah, Laws of Repentance, 1:1).

8. Regarding the greatness of the penitent Chazal said that not only are their sins forgiven them, but that “in the place where the penitents stand even the most righteous are unable to stand” (Berachos, 34b).
Rambam wrote regarding this: “A penitent shouldn’t imagine that he is so far away from the exalted status of the righteous because of all the sins he has done, for this is not so. Because he is beloved and endeared before the Creator as though he had never sinned at all… and more than that, he has earned a great reward for he has tasted the taste of sin and yet removed himself from it and has conquered his evil inclination.”

9. According to Chazal it is enough to just think about repentance and this alone is enough to consider him to be a righteous person in that moment. So too, when a known sinner tells a woman: “Marry me on condition that I will become a completely righteous person”, the marriage is valid because it could be that at that moment he had thoughts of repentance (Kiddushin, 49b).

10. With this approach it is possible to overcome the evil inclination who keeps trying to turn repentance into something too difficult to endure. The evil inclination insists the path of repentance is too long and difficult and virtually impossible.  Therefore Chazal taught us that repentance is in fact the will of the Creator, and that it is possible to do it with a moment’s thought, requires regret for ones past, and their undertaking not to relapse into sin again. After the thought one should verbalize their sins, and it is appropriate to accept upon oneself a small resolution for the future that will bring them back to the upright path.

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