[Avodah] What to do in Elul

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Thu Sep 3 18:13:02 PDT 2020

R' Moshe Zeldman asked:
> If one should not say "starting YK I will never...", then how
> does that fit with the Rambam in Teshuva (1:1) where part of the
> vidui is saying "and I will never do X again"?
> It sounds difficult to read into the Rambam that he means "I'm
> still going to be doing X but I have a plan to eventually stop"

Yes, the Rambam does say that at the beginning of Perek 1. But Perek 2 is
all about less-than-ideal sorts of teshuva. I concede that I didn't notice
the Rambam explicitly mentioning this weaning as a legitimate
less-than-ideal form of teshuva. But still, it is hard for me to imagine
that he would invalidate someone who said, "I did it, and I should not have
done it, and I feel sorry that I did it, and in the future I will do it
less than I used to."

And even if the Rambam *would* say that such a person has *not* done
teshuva, remember the context in which this idea was suggested: a person
who has repeatedly found this particular aveira unusually difficult to
conquer. Imagine further, that this person succeeds in a slow elimination
of this aveira, and after many years - decades perhaps - he has finally
conquered it. Such a person would certainly be no less of a Baal Teshuva
than the one who the Rambam described in the middle section of halacha 2:1:
"Even if he didn't do teshuva until his elderly days, and when it was
impossible for his to do what he used to do, even though it's not an
excellent teshuva, it still helps him, and he is a Baal Teshuva."

Please note that this person described by the Rambam did not even begin
regretting his sins until he was too old to do them. That's NOT the case
we're discussing. We're discussing someone who still has to battle the
yetzer hara. I can't help but wonder if this person, who executed a long,
slow, but ultimately successful plan, might get the mitzva of Teshuva
retroactively, to the beginning of that plan, maybe even according to the

Akiva Miller
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