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Teshuvah means to regret some mess-up you made, and resolve never to do it again.

We can’t tell you how to feel regret or resolve; it’s just something that happens inside. But we can give you a few tips on how to clean up the mess a mess-up leaves in its trail. You see, that teshuvah feeling inside actually empowers you to clean up the mess. Here’s how:

Step One: Say it out loud.

How: At night, or sometime when you are alone, say out loud, “Dear G‑d, I am sorry for the sin I did in Your presence by [your sin goes here].” There’s a specific prayer for this in your prayerbook, called vidui, which we say on Yom Kippur. You can say vidui and add this line at any point.

When you hear your voice saying how much you regret what you did, it hits much deeper inside.Why: Somehow, when you hear your voice saying how much you regret what you did, it hits much deeper inside. Your words help to pull that mess out of you, so that you can throw it away forever.

Step Two: Fix up what you did

How: Apologize and compensate to whoever may have been affected by your mess-up. If at first they don’t forgive, keep trying until they get unreasonable.

Why: If your mess-up was something between you and somebody else, then it wouldn’t be fair for G‑d to forgive you without involving that somebody.

Step Three: Charity

How: Just give a lot more than you’re used to giving.

Why: A mess-up diminishes life; charity means to give life. Charity heals the world, and your soul as well.

Step Four: Move up in life

How: Compensate for whatever happened. Do better, act nicer, learn more.

Why: The mess-up event acts like inertia to drag you down. It has to be turned around into an incentive to pull you higher.

Teshuvah is powerful. Of course, we don't sin to do Teshuvah, but according to our sages, a sin can take you higher than all the mitzvahs could ever reach—if you do teshuvah out of love. Love for G‑d, for His Torah and for your precious soul.

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Discussion (25)
November 28, 2016
when you hear your voice ...
"... when you hear your voice saying how much you regret what you did."
Really, you regret your wrongdoing because what it brought to your life. At that moment is when you realize what you did. It's common to say that we have an inner voice, i.e. "the voice of your conscience". But you might well say to yourself: let's take a shower -the Mikveh? - and forget all about this. Years later, that "inner voice" comes in to your life, but it's not really your inner voice, is the voice of a prosecutor.
For decades you stay in that helpless state. you go from witchcraft to soul healers to physicians to neurologists to various churches, but everything stays the same. At last the day of my joy comes in, and miracle of miracles, a voice rebuked the prosecutor.
It wasn't the voice of Chabad, because Chabad to me is written English only, it has no voice at all. Thus, every time I heard that prosecutor's voice I send it to the voice that defended me.
Qro. Mexico
July 17, 2015
Thank you Rabbi Menachem! That was most specific.
Rajiv Rajan
Pune India
April 15, 2015
Compensate for whatever happened. Do better, act nicer, learn more.
I agree. If you mess up, the worst possible thing you can do is beat yourself up over it. Instead, say to yourself, "Okay, I made a mistake, not the end of the world. I'll just have to do my best to remedy what happened."
Sam Leon
October 4, 2014
What if I need to ask forgiveness from someone, but approaching that person will upset them?
The person is young & doesn't want to be in my company or hear my name.
October 2, 2014
RE: Asking for forgiveness.
Here is what Maimonides writes on the matter:

If his colleague does not desire to forgive him, he should bring a group of three of his friends and approach him with them and request [forgiveness]. If [the wronged party] is not appeased, he should repeat the process a second and third time. If he [still] does not want [to forgive him], he may let him alone and need not pursue [the matter further]. On the contrary, the person who refuses to grant forgiveness is the one considered as the sinner.
Menachem Posner
September 30, 2014
Asking for forgiveness.
What if the person to whom you want to apologize won't speak to you?
August 26, 2013
Teshuvah, Repentance
Charity comes in many ways. It is not only giving "money," it is mostly our efforts in our leniency towards others. One can help other in many ways and forms. I see the emphasis in giving monetary gifts. What if the person is unemployed, or old person living on a small Social Security check? Where this elderly person try its best to help others with an incentive of love, and compassion. By providing help in a physical form to those who cannot help themselves? There are many ways to charity. Philanthropy is for the very rich, and not all of the wealthy gives to the poor. The poor is commanded to give, for what I understand, 10% of what they have as well as others. But when someone is trying to impose on the poor financial charity in addition to the tithe, it is not correct. What that imposition is doing is to create a sense of guilt which is not healthy, nor G-dly. May Hashem, blessed be He, have mercy on us all! Teshuvah, Teshuvah, Teshuvah.
September 25, 2012
Sin takes us higher
A sin can take us higher by proving to us how weak we really are thus inciting more humble assessments of our thoughts and more conscientious choices.
omaha, ne
September 19, 2012
Teshuvah -- Repentance
In the last sentence of this teaching in the line that reads "Teshuvah is powerful....... a SIN can take you higher.....Did you mean TESHUVAH? I got a little confused..... :)
merced, ca
May 16, 2012
I would refer the questioner to Step 9 of The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for his answer. It is selfish, and potentially harmful to make an amends to someone who would be injured by the revelation.
John Kaplan, MD
Wildomar, CA/USA