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    The Rambam describes
    the various steps of
    teshuvah: “What is
    teshuvah? One must
    leave sin… and sincerely
    decide that he won’t do
    this sin again… He must
    regret … and say
    viduy…” (Hilchos
    Teshuvah 2:2).
    The first step of
    teshuvah, stated in this
    Rambam, is to “leave
    the sin.” It isn’t
    sufficient to regret
    your wrong deeds and
    to say that you will
    improve. Teshuvah is
    to change; to stop
    sinning, and to do the mitzvos that you were
    neglecting until then.
    Some people don’t realize that. They think
    it’s sufficient regret their sins. They cry on
    Yom Kippur, “I sinned. I did wrong,” and
    they think that’s enough. But it isn’t sufficient.
    If he doesn’t translate his remorse into
    improved actions, an essential aspect of
    teshuvah is lacking.
    The Rambam also writes: “What is considered
    teshuvah gemurah (complete teshuvah)?

    When one encounters the sin he had
    transgressed in the past once again, [he has
    the opportunity to sin again] and he refrains
    and doesn’t commit the sin because of his
    teshuvah (and not out of fear, or because he
    doesn’t have strength)…” (Hilchos Teshuvah
    2:1). Once again, the Rambam is stating that
    a primary aspect of teshuvah is improving.
    Teshuvah gemurah, complete teshuvah, is
    when one doesn’t repeat his past sins.
    We can compare this to a person who owns a
    construction supplies store. Along one wall
    of the store are the bricks; another section
    carries lumber. He also supplies mortar, and
    other equipment. The store however, wasn’t a
    good investment; it was constantly losing
    money, so he decided to sell pharmaceuticals
    instead. But a decision isn’t sufficient. He
    must translate that decision into action. He
    must take out all the bricks, plywood, and
    building materials, and replace them with
    shelves stacked with medicines. He also
    needs to change the sign on the store.
    Deciding to change, without doing anything,
    isn’t sufficient. The same is with teshuvah.
    Deciding to change one’s ways certainly is
    the first step, but it can’t end with just a
    A fool, on the way to Warsaw, accidentally
    boarded the train traveling in the opposite
    direction. Someone asked him, “Where are

    you traveling to?”
    “To Warsaw.”
    “You’re on the wrong train. You’ll never
    reach Warsaw on this train. It’s going the
    opposite direction.”
    “Thank you so much for telling me,” the fool
    said. “I didn’t realize.” He then promptly
    took a seat facing the opposite direction.
    We laugh when we read this story, but are we
    any different when it comes to teshuvah?
    When we realize that we’re going in the
    wrong direction in life, do we change our
    ways? Or do we just imagine how good it
    would be if we could change our ways, and
    ultimately remain the same.
    The Chofetz Chaim told the following
    A contagious, fatal disease was spreading
    through a small town. When one of the
    residents discovered that he caught the
    disease, he immediately packed his bags and
    hired a wagon driver to bring him to the
    nearby city where there was a doctor and a
    hospital that could cure him.
    A neighbor asked him, “Why are you leaving
    town? You know that you aren’t the only
    person who caught the dreaded disease.
    Many people are ill in this town, but they just
    remain in their beds, in their homes. So why

    must you be different?” The ill person
    replied, “I don’t care what the others do. My
    life is in danger, and I have to save myself…”
    Likewise, the Chofetz Chaim said, when
    someone is clearly aware that the days of
    judgment are approaching, and he needs to
    do teshuvah to be saved, the yetzer hara
    comes to him and says, “You are not the only
    person who will be standing in judgment on
    Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The entire
    world stands in judgment. But we don’t see
    them changing their ways. They are
    complacent, happy to remain as they were
    until now. Why can’t you be like them? Why
    must you be different?” He should tell the
    yetzer hara, “I don’t care what the others do.
    There’s going to be a great judgment, my life
    is at stake, and I have to repent and improve,
    to save myself.”