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    The beginning of repentance

    Painting by Zalman Kleinman

    Repentance has four elements – charatah (regret), azivat ha’chet (abandonment of sin), kabbalah (pledging oneself) and viddui (confession).

    They are all interdependent and essential. If, for instance, we abandoned sin but did not accompany this act with remorse, it might be that we did not really mean it or even really enjoyed the sin while it lasted.

    That is why we also need charatah, which implies, “Not only have I stopped the sin but I truly regret ever having committed it”. On the other hand, the remorse can be there whilst the sin continues because it is hard to extricate oneself from the sinful situation.

    The element of kabbalah, pledging oneself not to repeat that sin, not only confirms the remorse and abandonment of sin; it also says, “I will not do that sin again – not because the circumstances have changed and I am unlikely to be tempted again, but because it is my personal decision not to commit the sin. The decision is my free choice; I am the master of my own destiny”.

    What about viddui? It adds to the other three elements the moral courage to articulate everything to God and face up to His scrutiny and judgment.

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