Today is September 25, 2017 / /

The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

How Good is our Teshuva?

by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff (Posted on September 6, 2016)
Topics: Prayer & Religiosity

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This article is part of Torat Chovevei, a Community Learning Program led by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah with the support of the Covenant Foundation. The goal of the program is to connect communities to YCT through the medium of Torah learning. All topics discussed weave relevant contemporary issues together with Torah and non-Torah sources in monthly home-based learning groups (chaburot). These groups are guided by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff, Rebbe and Director of Community Learning at YCT. For further information about Torat Chovevei, and how your community can get involved, please contact Rabbi Resnikoff at hresnikoff@yctorah.org.

 

 

The following sources and questions are meant to provoke a thoughtful deliberation and/or conversation surrounding the concept of teshuva and what it means to attain it.

Deuteronomy 30 (Parashat Teshuva)

וְהָיָה֩ כִֽי־יָבֹ֨אוּ עָלֶ֜יךָ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה הַבְּרָכָה֙ וְהַקְּלָלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָתַ֖תִּי לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ֙ אֶל־ לְבָבֶ֔ךָ בְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר הִדִּיחֲךָ֛ יְקֹוָ֥ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה: וְשַׁבְתָּ֞ עַד־יְקֹוָ֤ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֣ בְקֹל֔וֹ כְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם אַתָּ֣ה וּבָנֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ: וְשָׁ֨ב יְקֹוָ֧ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֛יךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ֖ וְרִחֲמֶ֑ךָ וְשָׁ֗ב וְקִבֶּצְךָ֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֱפִֽיצְךָ֛ יְקֹוָ֥ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה: אִם־יִהְיֶ֥ה נִֽדַּחֲךָ֖ בִּקְצֵ֣ה הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם מִשָּׁ֗ם יְקַבֶּצְךָ֙ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ וּמִשָּׁ֖ם יִקָּחֶֽךָ: וֶהֱבִֽיאֲךָ֞ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֗יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יָרְשׁ֥וּ אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֑הּ וְהֵיטִֽבְךָ֥ וְהִרְבְּךָ֖ מֵאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ: וּמָ֨ל יְקֹוָ֧ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֛יךָ אֶת־לְבָבְךָ֖ וְאֶת־לְבַ֣ב זַרְעֶ֑ךָ לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְקֹוָ֧ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֛יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־ נַפְשְׁךָ֖ לְמַ֥עַן חַיֶּֽיךָ: וְנָתַן֙ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ אֵ֥ת כָּל־הָאָל֖וֹת הָאֵ֑לֶּה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֥יךָ וְעַל־שֹׂנְאֶ֖יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר רְדָפֽוּךָ: וְאַתָּ֣ה תָשׁ֔וּב וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֖ בְּק֣וֹל יְקֹוָ֑ק וְעָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֹתָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם: וְהוֹתִֽירְךָ֩ יְקֹוָ֨ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֜יךָ בְּכֹ֣ל׀ מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָדֶ֗ךָ בִּפְרִ֨י בִטְנְךָ֜ וּבִפְרִ֧י בְהֶמְתְּךָ֛ וּבִפְרִ֥י אַדְמָתְךָ֖ לְטֹבָ֑ה כִּ֣י׀ יָשׁ֣וּב יְקֹוָ֗ק לָשׂ֤וּשׂ עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ לְט֔וֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר־שָׂ֖שׂ עַל־אֲבֹתֶֽיךָ: כִּ֣י תִשְׁמַ֗ע בְּקוֹל֙ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמֹ֤ר מִצְוֹתָיו֙ וְחֻקֹּתָ֔יו הַכְּתוּבָ֕ה בְּסֵ֥פֶר הַתּוֹרָ֖ה הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֤י תָשׁוּב֙ אֶל־ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ:And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, that persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and hearken to the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command thee this day. And the LORD thy God will make thee over-abundant in all the work of thy hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good; for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers; if thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. 

Questions:

  1. How does the Torah present teshuva? Is it enough to regret your actions and resolve to do better or does your behavior have to actually show some change?
  2. According to passuk 6, is it necessary to have God circumcise your heart in order to do teshuva. What role does God’s intercession play in the atonement process?
  3. What is the reward for teshuva according to the Parasha? Is this intended for the individual or for the entire nation? Is this reward motivational today?

Jonah 3

 וַיָּ֤חֶל יוֹנָה֙ לָב֣וֹא בָעִ֔יר מַהֲלַ֖ךְ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֑ד וַיִּקְרָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר ע֚וֹד אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְנִֽינְוֵ֖ה נֶהְפָּֽכֶת: וַֽיַּאֲמִ֛ינוּ אַנְשֵׁ֥י נִֽינְוֵ֖ה בֵּֽא-לֹהִ֑ים וַיִּקְרְאוּ־צוֹם֙ וַיִּלְבְּשׁ֣וּ שַׂקִּ֔ים מִגְּדוֹלָ֖ם וְעַד־קְטַנָּֽם: וַיִּגַּ֤ע הַדָּבָר֙ אֶל־מֶ֣לֶךְ נִֽינְוֵ֔ה וַיָּ֙קָם֙ מִכִּסְא֔וֹ וַיַּעֲבֵ֥ר אַדַּרְתּ֖וֹ מֵֽעָלָ֑יו וַיְכַ֣ס שַׂ֔ק וַיֵּ֖שֶׁב עַל־הָאֵֽפֶר: וַיַּזְעֵ֗ק וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ בְּנִֽינְוֵ֔ה מִטַּ֧עַם הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ וּגְדֹלָ֖יו לֵאמֹ֑ר הָאָדָ֨ם וְהַבְּהֵמָ֜ה הַבָּקָ֣ר וְהַצֹּ֗אן אַֽל־יִטְעֲמוּ֙ מְא֔וּמָה אַ֨ל־יִרְע֔וּ וּמַ֖יִם אַל־יִשְׁתּֽוּ: וְיִתְכַּסּ֣וּ שַׂקִּ֗ים הָֽאָדָם֙ וְהַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וְיִקְרְא֥וּ אֶל־אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים בְּחָזְקָ֑ה וְיָשֻׁ֗בוּ אִ֚ישׁ מִדַּרְכּ֣וֹ הָֽרָעָ֔ה וּמִן־ הֶחָמָ֖ס אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּכַפֵּיהֶֽם: מִֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יָשׁ֔וּב וְנִחַ֖ם הָאֱ-לֹהִ֑ים וְשָׁ֛ב מֵחֲר֥וֹן אַפּ֖וֹ וְלֹ֥א נֹאבֵֽד: וַיַּ֤רְא הָֽאֱ-לֹהִים֙ אֶֽת־מַ֣עֲשֵׂיהֶ֔ם כִּי־שָׁ֖בוּ מִדַּרְכָּ֣ם הָרָעָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם הָאֱ-לֹהִ֗ים עַל־הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר לַעֲשׂוֹת־לָהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֥א עָשָֽׂה:And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he proclaimed, and said: ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. And the tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying: ‘Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed, nor drink water; but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knoweth whether God will not turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?’ And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, which He said He would do unto them; and He did it not. 

Questions:

  1. How does the teshuva of Nineveh compare to the teshuva represented in Parashat Teshuva above? Is it about immediate remorse or about a shift in behavior?
  2. What is present in teshuva of the people of Nineveh that we didn’t see in Parashat Teshuva? How does this change our image of teshuva?

Genesis 4

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה וַיָּ֥קָם קַ֛יִן אֶל־הֶ֥בֶל אָחִ֖יו וַיַּהַרְגֵֽהוּ: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְקֹוָק֙ אֶל־קַ֔יִן אֵ֖י הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יךָ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה: וְעַתָּ֖ה אָר֣וּר אָ֑תָּה מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ לָקַ֛חַת אֶת־דְּמֵ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ מִיָּדֶֽךָ: כִּ֤י תַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹֽא־תֹסֵ֥ף תֵּת־כֹּחָ֖הּ לָ֑ךְ נָ֥ע וָנָ֖ד תִּֽהְיֶ֥ה בָאָֽרֶץ: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־יְקֹוָ֑ק גָּד֥וֹל עֲוֹנִ֖י מִנְּשֹֽׂא: הֵן֩ גֵּרַ֨שְׁתָּ אֹתִ֜י הַיּ֗וֹם מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה וּמִפָּנֶ֖יךָ אֶסָּתֵ֑ר וְהָיִ֜יתִי נָ֤ע וָנָד֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וְהָיָ֥ה כָל־מֹצְאִ֖י יַֽהַרְגֵֽנִי: וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ יְקֹוָ֗ק לָכֵן֙ כָּל־הֹרֵ֣ג קַ֔יִן שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקָּ֑ם וַיָּ֨שֶׂם יְקֹוָ֤ק לְקַ֙יִן֙ א֔וֹת לְבִלְתִּ֥י הַכּוֹת־אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־ מֹצְאֽוֹ: וַיֵּ֥צֵא קַ֖יִן מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְקֹוָ֑ק וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־נ֖וֹד קִדְמַת־עֵֽדֶן: וַיֵּ֤דַע קַ֙יִן֙ אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־חֲנ֑וֹךְ וַֽיְהִי֙ בֹּ֣נֶה עִ֔יר וַיִּקְרָא֙ שֵׁ֣ם הָעִ֔יר כְּשֵׁ֖ם בְּנ֥וֹ חֲנֽוֹךְ:And Cain spoke unto Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 9 And the LORD said unto Cain: ‘Where is Abel thy brother?’ And he said: ‘I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said: ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.’ And Cain said unto the LORD: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.’ And the LORD said unto him: ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bore Enoch; and he builded a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch.

Leviticus Raba 10:5

יהודה בר’ ור’ יהושע בן לוי. יהודה בר’ אמ’ תשובה עשה מחצה ותפילה עשה את הכל, ור’ יהושע בן לוי אמ’ תשובה עשה את הכל ותפילה עשה מחצה. על דעת’ דיהודה בר’ דאמ’ תשובה עשה מחצה ממי את למד, מקין, שנגזרה עליו גזירה קשה דכתיב נע ונד תהיה בארץ, וכיון שעשה תשובה נמנע ממנו חצי גזירה, הה”ד ויצא קין מלפני י”י וישב בארץ נד. בארץ נע ונד אין כת’ כאן אלא בארץ נד קדמת עדן.

ויצא קין, מהיכן יצא, ר’ יודן בש’ ר’ אייבו אמ’ הפשיל דברים לאחריו ויצא כגונב דעת העיליונה. ר’ ברכיה בש’ ר’ אלעזר בר’ שמעון יצא כמפריס כמרמה מבוראו.

ר’ חונא בש’ ר’ חננא בר יצחק אמ’ יצא שמח, המד”א וגם הנה הוא יוצא לקראתך (שמות ד, יד). כיון שיצא פגע בו אדם הראשון אמ’ לו מה נעשה בדינך, אמ’ לו עשיתי תשובה ופירשתי. כיון ששמע אדם הראשון כך התחיל טופח על פניו, אמ’ כל כך היא כוחה שלתשובה ולא הייתי יודע. באותה שעה אמר אדם הראשון מזמור שיר ליום השבת (תהלים צב, א).

Judah son of Rabbi and Rabbi Joshua son of Levi. Judah son of Rabbi says teshuva does half and prayer does it all. And Rabbi Joshua son of Levi says teshuva does it all and prayer does half. According to Rabbi Judah son of Rabbi who said teshuva does half, who do you learn from? From Cain, for he received a difficult decree as it is written, “You shall become a ceaseless wanderer on earth,” and since he did teshuva half of the decree was taken from him. This is what is written, “Cain left the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod.” In the land “Na VeNod” (ceaseless wandering) is not written here, only “The land of Nod, east of Eden.”

“Cain left…” where did he leave? Rabbi Yudan in the name of Rabbi Aibo said, he dragged words after him and left like one who steals the High consciousness. Rabbi Berachyah in the name of rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Simeon, he left like one who casts (traps) who is cunning with his creator.

Rabbi Hona in the name of Rabbi Hinena son of Isaac said, he left in joy. Thus it is said, “Even now he is setting out to meet you.” When he left, he met the first man. He said to him, ‘What was decided in your case?’ He said to him, ‘I repented and was reprieved.’ When the first man heard this, he began striking his face. He said, ‘Such is the power of repentance and I didn’t know!’ At that moment the first man said the song for the Sabbath Day.

Questions:

  1. What is the importance of the argument of whether teshuva does half and prayer does it all or the other way around? Half of what? All of what? What are they really arguing about?
  2. Did Cain actually do teshuva? If so, what was the nature of his teshuva? Remorse? Behavior change?
  3. How can we summarize the Biblical model of teshuva? Is it about change or regret? What other things must be added to teshuva for it to be fully successful? In the modern day, is the Biblical model sufficient? Should we make a distinction between divine forgiveness and human forgiveness?

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuva, Ch. 1

אף על פי שהתשובה מכפרת על הכל ועצמו של יום הכפורים מכפר, יש עבירות שהן מתכפרים לשעתן ויש עבירות שאין מתכפרים אלא לאחר זמן, כיצד עבר אדם על מצות עשה שאין בה כרת ועשה תשובה אינו זז משם עד שמוחלין לו ובאלו…עבר על מצות לא תעשה שאין בה כרת ולא מיתת בית דין ועשה תשובה, תשובה תולה ויום הכפורים מכפר…עבר על כריתות ומיתות בית דין ועשה תשובה, תשובה ויום הכפורים תולין ויסורין הבאין עליו גומרין לו הכפרה, ולעולם אין מתכפר לו כפרה גמורה עד שיבואו עליו יסורין… Even though teshuva atones for everything, and Yom Kippur on its own atones, there are sins that are atoned for immediately and there are sins that are only atoned for after some time. Example: a person broke a positive mitzvoth that is not punishable by excommunication, and they did teshuva. They do not move from there until they are forgiven…If they broke a negative mitzvah that is not punishable by excommunication, or capital punishment and they did teshuva, teshuva suspends the punishment and Yom Kippur atones… If they broke a mitzvah punishable by excommunication or capital punishment and they did teshuva, teshuva and Yom Kippur suspend punishment and suffering that comes to them finish the atonement. And they will never be fully atoned for unless suffering comes to them…

Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of punishment in the Rambam’s discussion here? What is the importance of punishment as part of the atonement process today?
  2. What is the meaning of “Yom Kippur on its own atones?” What is the power of Yom Kippur that just making it to that day guarantees atonement for certain sins? How important is that aspect of atonement today?

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuva, Ch. 2

אי זו היא תשובה גמורה, זה שבא לידו דבר שעבר בו ואפשר בידו לעשותו ופירש ולא עשה מפני התשובה, לא מיראה ולא מכשלון כח, כיצד הרי שבא על אשה בעבירה ולאחר זמן נתייחד עמה והוא עומד באהבתו בה ובכח גופו ובמדינה שעבר בה ופירש ולא עבר זהו בעל תשובה גמורה…ואם לא שב אלא בימי זקנותו ובעת שאי אפשר לו לעשות מה שהיה עושה אף על פי שאינה תשובה מעולה מועלת היא לו ובעל תשובה הוא, אפילו עבר כל ימיו ועשה תשובה ביום מיתתו ומת בתשובתו כל עונותיו נמחלין… What is complete teshuva? One to whom comes the opportunity to sin, and it is possible for them to sin, and they refrain and do not sin because of teshuva and not because of fear and not because of weakness. Example: A man who slept with a woman in sin and after some time they are together privately, and his love and his body are still strong and they are in the same city where they originally sinned, and he refrains and does not sin, this is complete teshuva…And if one only does teshuva in their old age, and at a time when it is impossible for them to do what they used to do, even though this is not the best teshuva, it works and they are considered to be a ba’al teshuva. Even if they sinned all their life and did teshuva on the day of their death and they died while doing teshuva, all of their sins are forgiven…

Questions:

  1. The Rambam draws a distinction between two types of Teshuva. What are they and why are they necessary?
  2. According to the Rambam, what should we really be aiming for when we do Teshuva? Is that what we actually aim for in real life?
  3. What infrastructure is necessary to do Teshuva in the modern world in such a way as to meet the demands of the Rambam? A plan? A therapist?

Principles for Using Behavior Modification

Huitt, W. (1994). Principles for using behavior modificationEducational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University

To develop a new behavior
1. Successive Approximation Principle:
To teach a child to act in a manner in which he has seldom or never before behaved, reward successive steps to the final behavior.
2. Continuous Reinforcement Principle:
To develop a new behavior that the child has not previously exhibited, arrange for an immediate reward after each correct performance.
3. Negative Reinforcement Principle:
To increase a child’s performance in a particular way, you may arrange for him to avoid or escape a mild aversive situation by improving his behavior or by allowing him to avoid the aversive situation by behaving appropriately.
4. Modeling Principle:
To teach a child new ways of behaving, allow him to observe a prestigeful person performing the desired behavior.
5. Cueing Principle:
To teach a child to remember to act at a specific time, arrange for him to receive a cue for the correct performance just before the action is expected rather than after he has performed it incorrectly.
6. Discrimination Principle:
To teach a child to act in a particular way under one set of circumstances but not in another, help him to identify the cues that differentiate the circumstances and reward him only when his action is appropriate to the cue.
To strengthen a new behavior
7. Decreasing Reinforcement Principle:
To encourage a child to continue performing an established behavior with few or no rewards, gradually require a longer time period or more correct responses before a correct behavior is rewarded.
8. Variable Reinforcement Principle:
To improve or increase a child’s performance of a certain activity, provide the child with an intermittentreward.
To maintain an established behavior
9. Substitution Principle:
To change reinforcers when a previously effective reward is no longer controlling behavior, present it just before (or as soon as possible to) the time you present the new, hopefully more effective reward.
To stop inappropriate behavior
10. Satiation Principle:
To stop a child from acting in a particular way, you may allow him to continue (or insist that he continue) performing the undesired act until he tires of it.
11. Extinction Principle:
To stop a child from acting in a particular way, you may arrange conditions so that he receives no rewards following the undesired act.
12. Incompatible Alternative Principle:
To stop a child from acting in a particular way, you may reward an alternative action that is inconsistent with or cannot be performed at the same time as the undesired act.
13. Punishment Principle:
To stop a child from acting in a certain way, deliver an aversive stimuli immediately after the action occurs. Since punishment results in increased hostility and aggression, it should only be used infrequently and in conjunction with reinforcement.
To modify emotional behavior
14. Avoidance Principle:
To teach a child to avoid a certain type of situation, simultaneously present to the child the situation to be avoided (or some representation of it) and some aversive conditon (or its representation).
15. Fear Reduction Principle:
To help a child overcome his fear of a particular situation, gradually increase his exposure to the feared situation while he is otherwise comfortable, relaxed, secure or rewarded.
________________________________________
* Adapted from: Krumboltz, J., & Krumboltz, H. (1972). Changing children’s behavior. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Questions:

  1. Which of the above principles can we identify in the texts above? Which are absent?
  2. Which of the principles outlined above seem like they would be useful in developing a plan for doing Teshuva? Which seem irrelevant or counterproductive?
  3. Can we think of any rituals or practices in הלכה or מנהג which help incorporate some of the principles in the atonement process?

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuva, Ch. 2

ומה היא התשובה הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו ויסירו ממחשבתו ויגמור בלבו שלא יעשהו עוד…וכן יתנחם על שעבר…ויעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב לזה החטא לעולם…וצריך להתודות בשפתיו ולומר עניינות אלו שגמר בלבו. And what is teshuva? It is that a sinner should abandon their sin and banish it from their thoughts and resolve in their heart that they will not do it any more…And similarly they should regret the past…And the knower of secrets should testify that they will not return to this sin forever…And they must confess with their lips and say the things that they have resolved in their heart.

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuva, Ch. 7

לעולם יראה אדם עצמו כאילו הוא נוטה למות ושמא ימות בשעתו ונמצא עומד בחטאו לפיכך ישוב מחטאיו מיד, ולא יאמר כשאזקין אשוב שמא ימות טרם שיזקין…

אל תאמר שאין תשובה אלא מעבירות שיש בהן מעשה כגון זנות וגזל וגניבה, אלא כשם שצריך אדם לשוב מאלו כך הוא צריך לחפש בדעות רעות שיש לו ולשוב מן הכעס ומן האיבה ומן הקנאה ומן ההתול ומרדיפת הממון והכבוד ומרדיפת המאכלות וכיוצא בהן מן הכל צריך לחזור בתשובה, ואלו העונות קשים מאותן שיש בהן מעשה שבזמן שאדם נשקע באלו קשה הוא לפרוש מהם…

ואל ידמה אדם בעל תשובה שהוא מרוחק ממעלת הצדיקים מפני העונות והחטאות שעשה, אין הדבר כן אלא אהוב ונחמד הוא לפני הבורא כאילו לא חטא מעולם, ולא עוד אלא ששכרו הרבה שהרי טעם טעם החטא ופירש ממנו וכבש יצרו, אמרו חכמים מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין אין צדיקים גמורין יכולין לעמוד בו, כלומר מעלתן גדולה ממעלת אלו שלא חטאו מעולם מפני שהן כובשים יצרם יותר מהם. 

A person should always see themselves as though they are about to die and perhaps they will die at this moment and would remain in sin. Therefore, they should do teshuva from their sins immediately. And they shouldn’t say, ‘When I am old I’ll do teshuva’ because perhaps they will die before they grow old…

Do not say that teshuva is only for sins that are active like lechery and theft and burglary. Rather, just as a person needs to do teshuva from those, thus they must search for negative characteristics that they have and do teshuva from anger, hatred, jealousy, inappropriate levity, pursuit of money and honor, gluttony, and similar things. They must do teshuva for all of them. And these sins are worse than the ones that are active. For when a person is sunk in these, it is difficult for them to separate themselves from them…

And a person who is a ba’al teshuva should not imagine that they are far from the level of the righteous ones because of the sins and transgressions that they did. The fact is not so. Rather they are as beloved and desirable before the creator as those who have never sinned. And not only this, but their reward is great because they tasted the taste of sin and refrained from it and conquered their evil inclination. The Rabbis said, “In the place where a ba’al teshuva  stands, completely righteous people cannot stand.” Meaning their stature is greater than the stature of those who never sinned since they conquer their evil inclinations more than them.

Questions:

  1. What seems to be the primary instrument of Teshuva according to these selections from Hilkhot Teshuva? Is this any different from the modern day?
  2. How successful are the strategies for doing Teshuva laid out by the Rambam for us personally and for people at large? Why are they successful or unsuccessful?
  3. How many of the principles of Behavior Modification laid out above are present in the Rambam’s explication of Teshuva here? Would the addition of more be helpful or unnecessary/irrelevant?

Sefer HaRokeach, Laws of Teshuva, 10

תשובת המשקל יש לו לשקול צערו כנגד הנאתו שנהנה בה ושנה שלימה אסור לאכול בשר ולשתות יין לבד משבתות וימים טובים ופורים ולא יאכל לחם חם ולא ירחץ כי אם בימים טובים מעט ולא ילך לראות בשום שחוק כי אם ילך לנשואין בשעת הברכה ולא יעדן עצמו בשום דבר וילקה בכל יום וישכב על דף אחד בלא כר כי אם בשבת וביום טוב על תבן או על קש וכר בראשו ויסיר רוח הבהמיו’ שבו חומר התאוה וחיי צער יחיה ושק על בשרו ולא ידבר מעניין התאוה חשקים ונשוקים ומשמושים ומיני אהבות וחשק או חמודים:
Teshuva of measure: One must measure their pain compared to the pleasure that they enjoyed in her. And they may not eat meat for a full year or drink wine except on Shabbat and Yom Tov and Purim. And they shouldn’t eat warm break and they shouldn’t wash except on days that are slightly special. And they shouldn’t go to see any celebration except to go to a wedding at the time of the blessing. And they shouldn’t allow themselves any luxury in any way, and they should be beaten every day. And they should lie on a hard surface without a pillow at their head except on Shabbat and Yom Tov on straw or chaff and a pillow at their head. And they should remove the animal spirit that in in them, the seriousness of the appetite. And they should live a life of discomfort. And they should wear sackcloth and they shouldn’t speak about appetites and desires and kissing and intercourse and other kinds of love and desire.

Questions:

  1. Are there any practices in the Rokeach’s deeply behavioral approach to Teshuva that we could adopt today? Would we want to? What about with modifications: Don’t eat sugar or meat the week that you speak Lashon Horah etc.?
  2. Which of the principles of Behavior Modification are missing from the Rokeach’s approach? If we were to adopt and modify some of those practices, what might we add to supplement them?

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuva, Ch. 2

מדרכי התשובה להיות השב צועק תמיד לפני השם בבכי ובתחנונים ועושה צדקה כפי כחו ומתרחק הרבה מן הדבר שחטא בו ומשנה שמו כלומר אני אחר ואיני אותו האיש שעשה אותן המעשים ומשנה מעשיו כולן לטובה ולדרך ישרה וגולה ממקומו, שגלות מכפרת עון מפני שגורמת לו להכנע ולהיות עניו ושפל רוח.

ושבח גדול לשב שיתודה ברבים ויודיע פשעיו להם ומגלה עבירות שבינו לבין חבירו לאחרים ואומר להם אמנם חטאתי לפלוני ועשיתי לו כך וכך והריני היום שב ומתנחם, וכל המתגאה ואינו מודיע אלא מכסה פשעיו אין תשובתו גמורה שנאמר מכסה פשעיו לא יצליח, במה דברים אמורים בעבירות שבין אדם לחבירו אבל בעבירות שבין אדם למקום אינו צריך לפרסם עצמו ועזות פנים היא לו אם גילם, אלא שב לפני האל ברוך הוא ופורט חטאיו לפניו ומתודה עליהם לפני רבים סתם…

It is among the ways of teshuva for the one who does teshuva to cry out constantly before God with weeping and prayers for mercy, and they do tzedaka as much as they can and distance themselves greatly from the thing in which they sinned and they change their name, to say, ‘I am different and I am not the same person who did those deeds. And they change all of their act for the better and to the straight path, and they exile themselves from their place, for exile atones for sin because it causes them to give in and be humble and low spirited.

And it is greatly to be praised for the person who is doing teshuva to confess publicly and make known their sins to them and reveal the sins between them and their fellows to others. And say to them, ‘I sinned against Plony and I did to them thus and so and behold I am doing teshuva today and I regret it.’ And anyone who is proud and does not announce but rather covers their sins, their teshuva is not complete as it says, “One who covers their sins shall not succeed…”(Proverbs 28:13). What are we talking about? Sins between a person and their fellow. But sins between a person and God, they do not have to publicize themselves and it is audacity if they revealed them. Rather they should do teshuva before God and specify their sins before God and confess them before the public generally.

Questions:

  1. What kinds of behavioral practices seem to be present here in the Rambam’s discussion of “the ways of Teshuva”. Can any of these be adopted for a modern behavioral practice?
  2. What is the importance of Vidui in the Rambam’s scheme of Teshuva? Why does he encourage people to confess publically? Can this fit into the Behavior Modification practice in some way? Would it be helpful for people to have a set group to whom they do public vidui?
  3. Why is it so important for the Rambam that one not publically confess their sins against God? Is that an important practice for the modern day as well?

The Path of the Just, Introduction

ואולם תולדות המנהג הזה רעות מאד לחכמים ולבלתי חכמים, כי גורם שמאלה ומאלה יחסר החסידות האמיתי ויהיה יקר מאד למצוא אותו בעולם. כי יחסר מן החכמים למיעוט עיונם בו, ויחסר מן הבלתי חכמים למיעוט השגתם אותו, עד שידמו רוב בני האדם שהחסידות תלוי באמירת מזמורים הרבה ווידויים ארוכים מאד, צומות קשים, וטבילות קרח ושלג, כולם דברים אשר אין השכל נח בהם ואין הדעת שוקטה. However, the outcomes of this custom are very bad for the wise and the not-so-wise. For it causes that both these and those lack the true piety and it becomes extremely dear to find it in the world. For the wise will lack it because they do not investigate it. And the not-so-wise because they do not understand it, until it appears to most people that piety is dependent on saying lots psalms and extensive confessions, harsh fasts, and immersions in ice and snow. These are all things that the intellect is uncomfortable with them and reason is unquiet. 

Questions:

  1. What is the Mesillat Yesharim’s objection to behavioral methods? What must we be careful of if we adopt these methods?