from Song of Teshuvah (editor and translator).
from Chapter Three
When Sin Is Removed, Entirely New Horizons Are Revealed
נגד כל חלק של כיעור שמסתלק מנשמת האדם על ידי הסכמתו הפנימית של אור התשובה, מתגלים עולמות מלאים בבהירותם העליונה בקרב נשמתו.
Corresponding to each part of ugliness that is removed from a person’s soul as a result of [his] being in inner alignment [with] the light of teshuvah, there are revealed within his soul worlds filled with supernal clarity.
Teshuvah is always potentially present. It moves into actuality when a person begins to identify with his inner self. This movement into actuality does not mean that a person creates a new being within himself. Rather, he returns to his primordial being, to who he really is.
In order to do that, he must eliminate the impurity of his sins, which obstruct the natural pathway leading to the inner light of his being.
When a person’s teshuvah is taking place and he feels excitement and renewal, the main thing is that he identify with his inner light.
The wrong choices that a person made created barriers separating him from the inner light of who he is. When he does teshuvah via the classical stages of teshuvah – regret and remorse, commitment to the future, and so forth (as recorded in Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuvah) – he removes those barriers one by one and is able to encounter the light of teshuvah that was always within him. As the boundaries fall away, he tastes the healthy light of who he is, the light of his soul. He identifies with the inner light of teshuvah.
Then he discovers within himself worlds filled with supernal clarity, worlds that he never even knew he possessed, worlds that he was not able to see because he was blind. Now suddenly he can see them. Those worlds were always there, always waiting, but he was never able to experience them. Who can measure the joy of this experience, this moment in which a person for the first time sees?
כל העברת חטא דומה להסרת דבר החוצץ מעל העין הרואה,
Every removal of sin resembles the removal of an interposition standing before the seeing eye.
The navi Yeshayahu admonishes the Jewish people, “Your sins have separated you from Hashem” (Yeshayahu 59:2). Sins block the natural, healthy flow of the light of a person’s soul to his spirit, eyes, ears, and his entire being.
ואופק-ראיה שלם מתגלה, אור מרחבי שמים וארץ וכל אשר בהם.
Then an entire field of vision is revealed: the light of the expanses of the sky and the earth, and everything within them.
Suddenly a person sees a beautiful field of vision that had never been visible to him before.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov states that a person in this world can be compared to someone standing in front of an awesome mountain, with a coin before his eyes that keeps him from seeing the mountain. The coin is his preoccupation with the physical world, which is much closer to his heart than is the world-to-come. (Rebbe Nachman mentioned a coin in particular because he was mocking the obsession that many people have with money, but it could be any object.) Because the coin is so close to a person, he is oblivious to the infinitely greater and more beautiful mountain.
Everyone thinks that he has penetrating insight, that he is like the Chozeh (the Seer) of Lublin. Rebbe Nachman states that we do not see anything. All we see is the coin before our eyes, in whatever form it may take: the next dollar we earn, the next girl walking by, the next movie that comes out.
And then, at the end of our lives, if we complain that no one ever showed us the mountain, God will tell us, “The mountain was five feet away from you, but all you ever saw was the coin.”
Moving the coin away from one’s eye is teshuvah. It sounds like a simple task, but it is hard to accomplish.
And when we remove this coin, we can see what we had never noticed before, realizing that we were like people “who have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear” (Tehillim 115:5–6).
Then we can see our own souls. We can perceive who we really are, what we really wanted throughout our lives. We can see why we were so angry, upset and frustrated: it is because we had wanted to see the light of the soul.
Teshuvah is the removal of the barriers. Sometimes these barriers are so thick and heavy that we need help from tzaddikim– of our generation or of previous generations. Sometimes a person has emotional blockages and he requires the help of a therapist, who knows that his job is not to create something new within his patient but to remove the inner obstacles that stand before his soul. A large part of therapy is giving space to the patient to speak freely without feeling judged. When a person articulates his feelings about hurtful events of the past, he has a sense of health, and he feels like a new person. But he is not new at all. Rather, he is meeting himself for the first time.