Talmud Tips

For the week ending 1 February 2014 / 1 Adar I 5774

Yoma 86 - Succa 5

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Teshuva is so great that it lengthens the years of a person.”

This teaching by Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani in the name of Rabbi Yonatan is found on our daf and is based on a verse in Sefer Yechezkel (33:19). However, is it truly literal that a person lives more years if he does teshuva?

The “Tzlach” and others explain this gemara based on the concept that teshuva has the power to turn prior transgressions into merits, as taught also on our daf. A person’s earlier, sinful, pre-teshuva years are called by our Sages as “dead years” – but after teshuva these very same early years are considered as years of merits, righteousness and “life”, thereby adding years of life to the person.

Another approach is that the merit of doing teshuva doesn’t necessarily adds years, but rather that the importance of teshuva is so great that G-d will wait, as it were, for many years and prolong a person’s sinful life to give the person a longer chance to do teshuva (Arvei Nachal).

  • Yoma 86b

“Teshuva is so great that that even if one person does teshuva the entire world is forgiven.”

Rabbi Meir teaches us this in a beraita, based on a verse in Sefer Hoshea (14:5). This far-reaching statement can be understood as follows: The world is judged based on the relative amount of merits and sins, mitzvot and transgressions. If the total value of merits in the world outweigh the “de-merits” the world is judged favorably, but if the majority is negative then the judgment is negative. If a person who transgressed subsequently does teshuva, those same transgressions can be changed into mitzvot, as we are taught above on our daf. In this manner an individual can alter the fate of a “50-50” world by doing teshuva, turning his transgressions into mitzvot, and tilting the judgment scale of the world to be positive – leading to “global forgiveness”.

  • Yoma 86b

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