Rabbi Mayer Twersky
Succos: A Time for Teshuva
With Elul and yomim noraim behind us, we are ready to shift focus. For the past forty days, the focus has been on teshuva. Cheshbon hanefesh and teshuva have been the mitzvos hayom. Now we are ready for change. What are the mitzvos hayom as we move forward?
One of the mitzvos hayom may come as a surprise. It is teshuva. The days after Yom Kippur are a time for teshuva - in fact, an optimal time for teshuva.
Two perspectives will help illumine this surprising answer. The first perspective is provided by the Maharsha. The gemara at the end of maseches Megillah teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu instituted that we should study the halachos of each yom tov on that yom tov - the halachos of Pesach on Pesach, Shavuos on Shavuos, and Succos on Succos. The Maharsha comments on the omission of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur from the list of yomim tovim. He explains that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not mentioned because the dominant mitzvah of these days is teshuva, and it is ALWAYS a mitzvah to do teshuva. The mitzvos of chametz and matzah are limited to Pesach, shtei halechem to Shavuos, etc. Hence, there is a special obligation to study Hilchos Chametz U‘matzah on Pesach, etc. But mitzvas teshuva is perennial, and hence our preoccupation with teshuva ought to be constant. Accordingly, the days after Yom Kippur - as all days of the year - are a time for teshuva.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this perspective. I am not sure how much we think about teshuva during the year between motsaei Yom Kippur and the following Rosh Chodesh Elul. I am, however, sure about one thing. We do no think enough about teshuva. Mesilas Yesharim recommends that a person make a cheshbon hanefesh daily. Consider the following mashal. If the captain of a ship checks the ship's course daily, it can not veer too far off course. But if he neglects to check daily, the ship can veer far off course, and the necessary corrections become increasingly difficult. The analogue to this mashal and its relevance to out lives are obvious. And thus teshuva and cheshbon hanefesh are perennial, not seasonal.
There is a second perspective as well. This latter perspective is, inter alia, expounded upon in sifrei chassidus. Succos, in particular, is a time for teshuva m'ahava. The teshuva of the yomim noraim was most likely a teshuva m'yira. Sullied by our sins, our teshuva was most likely inspired by the awe and dread of the yemei hadin. Having been granted atonement by Hakadosh Baruch Hu on Yom Kippur, we, in our newly uHHhhhhhl/kjlkzdfjgsdkl;fgjsdfl;kgjsdflgjksdfgattained state of tahara, have an enhanced capacity for teshuva m'ahava, a teshuva inspired by love of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
May we merit to be chozer b'teshuva shaleima lefanav m'ahava.