Baal Shem Tov TeachingsTeshuvah (Repentance)

Teachings of Rav Yisrael Hopstein of Koznitz, the Koznitzer Maggid

Making Hashem “Your” G-d Through Teshuvah

The Koznitzer Maggid commented on the verse “Repent and return to Hashem, your G-d” (Hoshea 14:2), from the haftorah of Shabbos Teshuvah. You should repent and return, said the Maggid, until you can call Hashem “your G-d” — until the Creator becomes your own personal source of G-dliness. This means that you do teshuvah until you become a vehicle for His holiness (that is, living a life of sanctity and acting holy according to the Torah’s dictates). Then you can be close to Hashem without any barriers and beseech Him in prayer, as one might speak to his best friend and confidant. When you recite a blessing, for example, and say, “Baruch Atah Hashem — Blessed are You, Hashem,” you should feel as if you are actually standing before Hashem without any barriers or foreign thoughts separating you.
Avodas Yisrael
 

The Ba’al Teshuvah’s Personal Deliverance from Gehinnom

The Koznitzer Maggid commented on the verse “You should take it to heart…and return to Hashem, your G-d…and then Hashem will bring you back…” (Devarim 30:1–4) that just as there are seven supernal palaces, or holy heavenly chambers on High (see Chagigah 12b, which lists the seven levels of Heaven), there are also seven impure chambers — the seven “pits” of Gehinnom.
If a person falls and sinks down among the husks and shells of impurity known as the klippos, heaven forbid, then he is actually in Gehinnom (a spiritual state where he is far from Hashem). If he wishes to repent and return to Hashem, the first thought that should enter his mind is that Hashem loves Bnei Yisrael so much that He is willing to descend to the seven pits of Gehinnom Himself to personally lift him out and bring him back to Him.
Thus said David HaMelech: “You saved my soul from the lowest pits” (Tehillim 86:13) — You, Hashem, personally redeemed me from the lowest pits of Gehinnom.
Avodas Yisrael, Nitzavim
 

Flee from Evil and Later Tend Your Wounds

Rav Meir Yechiel, also known as the “Seraph of Mogolintza,” the Fiery Angel of Mogolintza, once taught in the name of the holy Koznitzer Maggid that a person who wishes to repent must first push away any thought of the magnitude of the sins he committed. Do not initially attempt to rectify any blemish your misdeeds have caused on High. Rather, your first task should be to flee from the evil inclination who is pursuing you. Send him away, cast him out, and obliterate the evil from your character by building yourself up: serving Hashem with love and awe and other good traits. Once you rectify your character, then you can repair your flaws and focus on the specific misdeeds you did.
He related a parable to illustrate this idea: There was once a soldier who was pursued by another soldier from the opposing army. The pursuer was a champion warrior and managed to bruise and batter his fleeing opponent. If the soldier who was fleeing would have stopped to tend to his many injuries, his pursuer would have caught up with him and dealt the final death blow. The correct course of action was to run for his life and not look back. Once he was safe and no longer had any doubts whether he had escaped his pursuer, then he could find someone to heal him and tend to his wounds.
Tiferes Chaim
 

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