A persons actions and deeds in his daily conduct are the "garments" of his soul. When a person performs good deeds he clothes his soul with good and beautiful garments; when he does bad deeds he covers his soul with dirty and soiled garments.

This is what King Solomon meant when he said, "At all times let thy garments be clean" (Eccl. 9:8). He was referring to the garments of the soul.

But sometimes it happens that a garment gets stained or soiled. The wise person will not say, "Well my garment is stained already; what does it matter if it gets dirtier?" Instead, he will wash out the stain, or send the garment to the "cleaners" or to the laundry. If this is so in regard to ordinary clothes, how much more so in regard to the garments of the soul!

Our Sages, of blessed memory, spoke of Teshuvah (repentance) as of a cleaning process. Indeed our Prophets who admonished our people had already used the same idea before them.

And so our Sages declared, "As soiled garments can be cleansed, so the Jewish people, although they sin, can return by repentance unto G‑d" (Exod. Rabbah, Beshallach, 13:10).

Rabbi Shmuel b. Nachmani likened repentance to the open sea. When a man wishes to bathe in the sea, he can bathe in it at any hour he likes. So with repentance: whenever a person wishes to repent, G‑d will accept his repentance (Eichah Rabbah, 3:60).

It is never too late to do Teshuvah. The great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochoi said, "Even a person who had been wicked all his life, if he repents sincerely, his sins will not be mentioned to him" (Kiddushin 40B).

Only the Yetzer-hara (evil inclination) can persuade a person that his sins are too great or too many to be washed away by repentance. Our Sages taught otherwise: "There was never a man more wicked than (King) Menasseh, yet, in the hour of his repentance, G‑d accepted him, as it is written (II Chron. 33:13), he prayed unto G‑d, and G‑d accepted his prayers" (Bamidbar Rabbah, Naso 14:1).

The reason why repentance is always acceptable is that G‑d is truly our merciful Father, always ready to receive His straying children. Rabbi Meir said, "To what is this matter to be likened? To a kings son who strayed to evil ways. The king sent the tutor to bring him back. Said the son, With what face can I return to my father? I am ashamed before him. But the king sent word to his son again, Can a son be ashamed to return to his father?"(Devarim Rabbah, Vaetchanan 2:24)

While G‑d desires the sinner to return and repent, the first step must be made by the sinner himself. Rabbi Issi said, "G‑d says to the Jewish people: Open to me, My children, the gate of repentance as little as the eye of a needle, and I will open for you the gates wide enough for carriages and wagons to enter through them." And Rabbi Levi pointed out that the power of repentance is so great that it could bring the righteous Messiah without delay. Said he: "If the Jewish people would repent but for one day, they would be redeemed at once by the son of David, as it is written, Today, if you would hear his voice (Ps. 95:7; Shir hashirim R., ch. 5, 2:2)

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