In his book Menorat haMaor, Rabbi Isaac Abohab, who lived in Spain during the 14th century, writes (Pag. 668-669) that there are 7 levels of Teshuba, repentance. This brief text, containing these reflections, could be considered a modern manual of the psychology of repentance. We will see and try to delve into each one of these seven levels.
They are divided fundamentally in terms of time and circumstances: when and why does repentance occur?
The first level of Teshuba, the highest, is when one repents of what he or she did wrong immediately, and without the intervention of any external element.When this happens, says Rabbi Abohab, it is a very good indication, since it means that the individual’s conscience is awake and active.
Let’s try to understand this deep concept a little better.
Imagine, for example, a person who for the first time drinks alcohol in excess and gets drunk. 1. He may start driving under the influence and have an accident, and even loss his or her driver’s license. In these circumstances, while and after he is suffering from the consequences of his drunkenness, this person would surely regret having drunk alcohol. 2. It is also possible, for example, that his family saw him drunk, his parents, his children, etc. and felt ashamed of him. Now, once he is sober and his family tells him what he did, he will surely regret having misbehaved. 3. It would also be possible for this individual to have the luck, or bad luck, to suffer no consequences and no regret. In these circumstances, nothing would prevent this person from leaving alcohol after his first drunkenness. it is possible that drinking will become a new habit for him, and then perhaps an addiction …
Now we can better understand why immediate Teshuba is at the highest level. The individual who repents before, or without having suffered the consequences of what he or she did wrong, has an inner voice, an active consciousness (neshama) that pushes him to self-correction after having acted wrong, even when no one else is rebuking him.
Another example: Imagine that I did or said something offensive to another person. The immediacy or delay of my apology will surely affect the acceptance of my apology. If I say or do something offensive, an I immediately realize what I did and apologize saying: “I’m sorry, or I did not mean to offend you, or I used the wrong words, etc. “ if the apology was immediate, in most cases, the acceptance of my repentance by the victim will be much more likely to happen. The offended will surely regard my action as an error rather than an act of malice or negligence.
Rabbi Abohab also concludes that when one commits a transgression and repents immediately, he is regarded as having done so by error or neglect, not deliberately.
The Sages recognized this phenomenon and explained that in the case of most people, conscience is asleep, and only awakens when it experiences the consequences of the individual’s wrong action. But in the case of an individual who often studies Tora, is different, since although he or she is not infallible, he has a conscience that is constantly alert. Because studying Tora is a permanent reminder of our values, which keeps the consciousness in a state of permanent ethical awareness. Rabbi Abohab then quotes the Gemara at Berakhot (10a), that says, “If you saw a Tora student committing a transgression during the night, in the morning you must assume that he has already repented.” Because this individual has developed an inner ethical defense mechanism, which prevents a bad action from becoming a habit. And as long as your conscience is active he will be able to differentiate what is right from what is wrong.
The study of the Tora is the best guarantee for obtaining and maintaining an active ethical awareness.