By Chaim Grossferstant
Maimonides (Laws of Repentance 2:1) teaches us that : = What is considered a complete/absolute Teshuva? If the penitent is confronted with the sin (again), has the opportunity to transgress but abstains not because of diminished capacities or fear (of human repercussions) but because of his repentance. E.G. if someone had an illicit affair with a woman and later was secluded with her in the same locale where they had originally sinned and is still vigorous and still loves her yet desists and does not transgress, this (person) is a Master of absolute Teshuva.
There is a symbiotic relationship between Tzadikim (those who have not sinned) and Baalei Teshuva (those who sinned but have repented). Very often Tzadikim help Baalei Teshuva in their “repair work” and Baalei Teshuva, by turning lemons into lemonade, help raise the consciousness of Tzadkim to understand that, paradoxically, sins aremissed opportunities that open up new and better opportunities.
In Jewish thought Yoseph and Yehuda are archetypes for the Tzadik and Baal Teshuva, respectively. Consider their diverse behaviors and reactions when confronted with their respective tests of resisting their desire for a woman prohibited to them.
Commentaries have argued about the motivations for Yoseph’s request that Binyomin be brought before him and Yoseph’s standoff with Yehuda at the beginning of Parshas Vayigash. I think it may be understood in light of the Tzadik/Baal Teshuva archetype roles of Yoseph and Yehuda and the symbiotic relationship between Tzadikim and Baalei Teshuva..
IMO what Yoseph was trying to do was help Yehuda achieve absolute Tehuva. He orchestrated the frame-up of the divining chalice in Benyamin’s sack to replicate, as much as was possible, the circumstances of Yehuda’s sin of having sold Yoseph. Once again Yehuda was confronted with the same choice as when he initially sinned; a beloved ben z’kunim of Rachel, his own half brother, was in danger of becoming a slave to gentiles. Would he repeat his previous sin, opt for the path of least resistance and allow Binyamin to become a slave? Or… would he risk all, his temporal life and his share in the world-to come, to save his half brother?
Yehuda, helped (manipulated) this way by the Tzadik, becomes a fully realized Baal Teshuva. Then when Yoseph, decked out as the viceroy of Egypt, drops the masquerade to reveals to the Bnei Yisrael that he is their brother and not some malevolent despot, he is not only teaching his brothers that things are not always what they appear to be. He is having an epiphany and admitting this to himself as well. Yehuda the Baal Teshuva helped the Tzadik to realize that sin is not a bottomless pit, “full” of emptiness and life-robbing snakes and scorpions, but a springboard to attain even higher heights. The deeper the trampoline falls/”gives”, the higher it propels. When we think about our pasts, our mistakes our squandered opportunities and our sins we ought to also remember that the harder we fell the higher we can come.
Originally posted on January 1, 2009.