Oct 29, 2012


It wasn't the first time I've read or heard that guilt is not a Jewish idea.  The time before that it was in a pre-Rosh Hashana lecture.  Each time, I come across this thought I'm taken aback. 

The reasoning they give is that halacha provides for teshuva in which you acknowledge what you did, feel bad about it, and resolve not to do it again.  Guilt is not seen as playing a role in the teshuva process and is called a waste of time and energy.

Perhaps the reason they say this is because too many people get pulled down into depressive states and this no-guilt approach is meant to enable people to remain b'simcha and move on.  However, it doesn't sound correct to me.  Doesn't feeling bad about it entail feeling guilty? And, after all, what did Dovid Ha'Melech mean when he said in Tehillim (51:5), "“V'chatasi negdi samid" (my sin is always before me)? True, Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov learns from these words that it is always good to confess one's sins before Hashem, no matter how long ago one transgressed.  But there is also the understanding that Dovid always kept his sins in mind.  Not to depress him, but perhaps to remind him of his frailty, to keep him humble, and to prevent him from stumbling.

Our generation has been called the "disposable generation" which refers to the appliances which don't last and are not worth fixing, plastic plates and utensils, and even marriages.  The no-guilt approach to teshuva is so simple.  Just acknowledge sin, regret it briefly, and commit to not repeating it.  Then move on.  We can dispose of our sins as easily as tossing them into the water during Tashlich.  But is it really so easy? Is there no middle road in which we can and should feel guilty and be left with residual guilt? Is our teshuva done with such love for Hashem that our sins were transformed into merits? If not, shouldn't some guilt remain?

1 comment:

  1. I saw an interesting story that happened last year. An 18yr old girl wanted to experience what it would be like to kill someone so she plotted and planned to kill the 9yr old girl next door. She dug a grave and then when she was alone with the child, she strangled her and stabbed her, then buried her in the hole that she dug. I don't know all the details about how the body was found and how the 18yr old was accused and arrested but at her trial, she sincerely apologized and said that she wished she could give her own life to get the little girl back. Her defense attorney tried to have the life sentence reduced by saying that the 18yr old did not have an adult sense of right and wrong. That got me thinking that we only have a few short years to teach our children right and wrong and then they are held accountable for knowing it.
    OTOH, if I have given tzedukah money properly, I should not have to feel guilty if I buy myself an ice cream cone rather than give all the money in my pocket to the street beggars.