Tzadik-Baal Teshuva Symbiosis

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.

15 comments on “Tzadik-Baal Teshuva Symbiosis

  1. What percentage of FFBs are perfect tzaddikim who never sinned and never needed to do teshuvah?

    There are two Bible verses where King Solomon teaches that there is no man who never sins.

  2. Found a great quote from that speaks to the trampoline effect:

    I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.
    – General George S. Patton

    As it is in war so it is in Milchemes HaYetzer. This quote nicely somes up what the Tzadik can learn from the BT.

  3. How do you know that life is nothing like a trampoline? Your personal experience is one data point only.

  4. Chaim G,
    How would you differentiate between diminished capacities/fear/ and repentance with regards to “Absolutely Teshuva” and not repeating the same mistake or sin twice when encountering the same scenario?
    (The first employee contract I ever signed included a mistake slogan that I never forgot)
    “Everyone makes mistakes, as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice”

    Anyway, diminished capacities can induce repentance.
    Fear can diminish capacities.
    What if one diminishes their impulses and induces a desire for discipline by enhancing their sense of logic with stimulants, is that considered diminishing the capacity to love sin, and or diminishing the emotional desires or “vigorous” ness.
    Can a brain on Ritalin or adderall do an “absolute teshuva” ?
    What about the age old question regarding the laundry list of drugs that fix personalities…..
    Repentance can sometimes have nothing to do with a father in the sky and more to do with logical living for law lovers.

    There are numerous reasons why the “vigorous” lover in the story might not have consummated his desires, when he found himself secluded with her in the same locale he had previously let his emotions get out of hand in.
    Aside from 3 options referenced above, diminished capacities, fear and or repentance, there are other logical reasons generally used to determine what makes sense logically in terms of emotional discipline.
    And the reasons are similar and different when it’s a woman making those choices .And the emotional repercussions may differ but not due to fear of repercussions from humans, the father in the sky, regret, and or the diminishing desires, but the enhanced logical understanding that intimate connections are complicated and require a thorough logical and rational analysis before the connection process.
    For starters “repent” alone has numerous definitions as defined by Merriam Webster:
    1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life2 a: to feel regret or contrition b: to change one’s mindtransitive verb1: to cause to feel regret or contrition2: to feel sorrow, regret, or contrition for
    — re•pent•er noun
    When you say “symbiotic” I’m assuming you are referring to mutualism.
    But I’m not sure what “symbiotic” has to do with accomplishments in question from both individuals.
    It’s not clear from your essay how the teshuvah lover has benefited from the tzadik that never sinned. And or how the tzadik benefited from the teshuvah lover.
    What does the teshuvah lover’s attaining the deepest heights of spirituality due to the deepest depths of non-spirituality; have to do with the tzaddik that never sinned?
    And what does the sin less state of the tzaddik have to do with the teshuvah lover.

    I dont understand your assertion that the harder the fall the greater the height potential.
    Are you saying that falling hard into the depths of spiritual despair can only occur if the original sparks of spirituality were at one point in a supposed very lofty position ?
    But how does the original state of something prove the definite future potential of something.
    Life is nothing like a trampoline.

  5. Should we label these hijackers as blog-terrorists… or just freedom fighters for the right to inject urgent Klal issues into a Klal blog?!

    Btw Chaiim,I’ve seen sifrei tsaddikkim that explain that in essence, Yhuda was more of the Tsaddik! Midrash says a “Malach” forced him into his act with Tamar and not his personal desire whatsoever. His greatness was in recognizing his hasty judgment and acknowledging who was “Tsodek.”

    Hence HE became tsaddik!

    In contrast, Yosef genuinely struggled with his tayva / lust and came out of the trial with a giant tikkun.

    Sounds more like a BT, no?

  6. sorry. didn’t see your last comment when I wrote mine. interesting parallel. Both teraffim and goblet were used for divining-prognosticating the future.

  7. 1. It is well known that all strata of a properly ordered Jewish society interact spiritually to everyone’s benefit. Not only Tzaddikim and Baalei Teshuva, as in this article’s example, but across the board. Everyone has something to offer.

    2. Have a good day!

  8. I would’ve prefeered no comments to this.

    The former is passively ignoring the post while this is actively ignoring the post.

  9. Now that we’re back, I’d like to ask about the seeming parallels between Binyamin/”stolen” goblet and Rachel/stolen teraphim. In planning the goblet episode, was Yosef somehow preoccupied with the fate of his mother? Yaakov told Lavan that the teraphim thief would die. Yosef pointedly rejected the idea presented to him that the goblet thief should die.

  10. Tzirelchana, I did look. Your emphasis on our need to progress collectively in Yiddishkeit is well-taken. However, your idea that Israel’s military should not fight outside its own turf, and that such action should be considered as offensive (as opposed to defensive) is strange. For the Allied nations, World War 2 was a response to aggression, but no one argued against taking the war to the enemy’s territory as soon as practical. Not to mention that Gaza is not really foreign territory anhyhow.

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