Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew

Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant JewOctober 01, 1996

The concept of Teshuvah ("return") occupies a central place in Judaism and has many facets. As individuals differ from one another, so too do their modes of teshuvah, in both motive and form of expression. Broadly defined, teshuvah is more than just repentance from sin; it is a spiritual reawakening, a desire to strengthen the connection between oneself and the sacred. The effectiveness of the teshuvah is thus frequently a function of one's sense of distance from the sacred. The greater the distance, the greater the potential movement toward renewed connectedness. As one Jewish sage put it, 'A rope that is cut and retied is doubly strong at the point where it was severed.'

Rabbi Steinsaltz's Teshuvah (Free Press, 1987; and Jason Aronson, 1996) is not intended as a call to action, nor is it an attempt to convince anyone to take that path. Rather, it is addressed to those who are already considering teshuvah, those who have already resolved to undertake it, or those who have already begun. The book is offered to the ba'al teshuvah (penitent) as advice and guidance in dealing with some of the difficulties likely to be encountered along the way. Some of these difficulties pertain to appropriate ways to behave in particular circumstances. Most, however, are matters of principle and spiritual orientation: what the observances mean, how they are related, and, once embarked on the path of teshuvah, how one is to relate to self, family, and the surrounding society.