Essence of Teshuvah

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Teshuvah is one of the fundamental principles of Judaism, yet few truly understand what it actually is. A broad translation of the term is “repentance”, although teshuvah extends far beyond atonement for sins. It is a means of connecting with God, of seeking to raise oneself to a higher level of existence. While many books focus on practical aspects of teshuvah, The Essence of Teshuvah: A Path to Repentance differs in that it offers a deep understanding of the profound notion of teshuvah. Rabbi Chaim Nussbaum, a highly regarded Jewish teacher, lecturer, and writer, seeks to provide contemporary men and women with a tool to find the meaning of teshuvah, to give depth and spiritual enrichment to the quest for personal growth through the striving to reach the goals laid out for the Jewish people by the Creator. The book attempts to provide answers to questions the serious student of religion may encounter, questions of forgiveness, of regret, of the relationship of man – a limited creature, to God – infinite and beyond the confines of time and space. The Essence of Teshuvah is divided into three parts. In the first part, Rabbi Nussbaum examines the biblical personalities who exemplified the characteristics of teshuvah – Adam and Eve, Cain, and King David. Through a succinct presentation of the elements of teshuvah in their lives, the reader is given an awareness of the powerful forces, common to even contemporary man, that drive one to seek a place in society, and the relationship of repentance to that goal. Rabbi Nussbaum completes this section with a look at the life of Nathan Birnbaum, one of the builders of modern Judaism, clearly illustrating that the lessons of teshuvah from biblicaltimes can indeed be related to modern man. Part II, “The Phenomenon of Teshuvah”, concentrates on the issues concerning contemporary man on his path to teshuvah. Rabbi Nussbaum discusses concepts such as sin, conscience, personal responsibility, repentance out of fear, and repentance out of love. The final section explores the theme of divine forgiveness as it is manifested in the festivals of the month of TishreiRosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and the Closing Days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. These festivals represent the dual aspect of teshuvah, the act of repentance and the resolve to change one's life to seek a higher level of existence. The Essence of Teshuvah is an intelligible guide for the general reader and advanced student. It is designed to stimulate the reader to conceive of the profound notion of teshuvah, to develop a more complete understanding of an inherent element of Judaism, and to assist in the struggle to achieve fulfillment in accordance with the Divine scheme of the universe.

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