Shabbos: A Time for Teshuvah
Hashem teaches us that Shabbos is a time for repentance, because teshuvah is hinted at in its name. The letters that spell Shabbos (shin, beis, tav) form the acrostic “Shabbos Bo Tashuv — On Shabbos you should repent and return!”
Sidduro shel Shabbos
Teshuvah — Every Day
Once, one of Rav Sa’adiah Gaon’s students visited him unexpectedly in the night. To his bewilderment and fear, he found his Rebbe rolling around in the freezing ice and snow.
“Rebbe!” the talmid exclaimed. “Surely this is not necessary! Are your sins so great that you must resort to such excruciatingly painful forms of self-affliction? If a great rav such as yourself, who always safeguards himself from any blemish, even from sinful thoughts, afflicts himself like this, what can we say about ourselves? We who are full of sin from the days of our youth — why, afflictions worse than death would be too good for the likes of us!”
“My son,” Rav Sa’adiah Gaon replied, “you should know that I have
never done this before, because I knew that I never committed a transgression that would require this of me. But recently I traveled to a certain town and found lodgings at the local inn, which was owned by a Jewish innkeeper. The innkeeper didn’t recognize me — he didn’t even know that I was a learned man who knew much Torah — and he treated me like any other guest.
“Then the news spread that I, Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, had come to town. Men, women, and children gathered to show their respects as befits a great rabbi and Torah scholar. When the innkeeper saw that the local townspeople had come to honor me, he, too, began to show me his respects and served me with great honor at every opportunity.
“When I was ready to depart, the entire community gathered to escort me, and this innkeeper fell before my feet, prostrating himself on the ground and pleading with me to forgive his earlier behavior, his slight on my honor and on the honor of the Torah. I told him that surely he had honored me to the best of his abilities. But he persisted and begged forgiveness for the way he had treated me at first. ‘Please,’ he cried, ‘I did not know then of the greatness of my master and teacher! I did not honor you properly as befits someone of your stature. I treated you as a commoner, and for this I beg your forgiveness. Please, Rabbi, forgive your servant for his neglect. I did not yet realize your greatness!’
“These words,” said Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, “penetrated the depths of my heart. This innkeeper fell to his knees, begging at my feet for forgiveness of his past misdeeds, for the sake of the honor of a mere mortal. “All the more so when it comes to serving the Creator! I know all too well that my understanding and appreciation of His greatness and majesty grows daily commensurate with my avodah and my love and fear of Him. Therefore I am begging Him for forgiveness for my past misdeeds. I am afflicting myself in this way that He forgive my lack of service, and the deficiency of my love and fear of Him in the past. For it distresses me greatly — how could I not serve Hashem properly in the past, in the light of my appreciation of His greatness and awe today?
“Not only am I repenting my past misdeeds, but I recognize Hashem’s greatness more and more each and every day as my divine service grows. So I repent my past and do teshuvah daily over yesterday’s mistakes and my lack in showing proper honor and glory toward Hashem based on what I know today.”
Sidduro shel Shabbos