A book on teshuvah; what can possibly be new about that? Been there and done that! Every year we honestly try to better ourselves and do teshuvah in anticipation of Yemei HaDin. We hear the inspiring chizuk derashos and we read the many classic mussar sefarim and the contemporary books that aim to inspire us. What can be “new” when it comes to teshuvah? As one yeshiva bachur said, “I know what I have to do, and I will hopefully get inspired to do it.”
One of the foremost mashgichim of our time has written a book that will immediately dispel any doubts of how it is possible to make teshuvah “new.” Rabbi Reuven Leuchter, shlita, a talmid muvhak of the late mashgiach R’ Shlomo Wolbe, zt’l, and one of the most popular mashgichim in Yerushalayim today, has drawn on his expertise and compiled a sefer that is eye-opening.
Rabbi Leuchter has previously published his commentary to two sefarim, the Nefesh HaChaim from R’ Chaim Volozhiner, zt’l, and Ohr Yisroel from R’ Yisroel Salanter, zt’l, that have received tremendous accolades from many roshei yeshivos and also from the many communities around the world where the mashgiach visits. R’ Leuchter’s commentary to these classic sefarim, as well as his ongoing series of shiurim and vaadim in Yerushalayim, has invigorated hundreds in their avodas Hashem. Many current and former students have asked him to please compile a sefer that gathers all the various ideas regarding teshuvah and present them in a unified and comprehensive manner.
In acceding to these requests, Rabbi Leuchter went even one step further. He has authored a sefer that is both classic and new. It is classic in the sense that he deals with the familiar words of Chazal and how they are understood in the classic works of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Yet it is new in every sense as well. The sefer presents a new and comprehensive arrangement of the material in a manner that helps clarify many points, which in turn leads to the practical applications of the words of Chazal. Rabbi Leuchter, with his vast erudition and years of experience dealing with people seeking to grow in their avodas Hashem, has explained many difficult concepts in a clear, understandable, and practical manner.
Many times Rabbi Leuchter has conveyed his belief that if people are able to see how different ideas connect to each other, and if one sees the progression of concepts and how they are structured, then applying them in a practical manner is an easy next step. And that is just how the sefer is arranged. From accurately defining what teshuvah is to taking us step by step to understanding what we have to do, this book is the outgrowth of this conviction.
Teshuvah should not be limited to Elul and Tishrei. This sefer follows in the path of the works of the author’s great rebbe, R’ Wolbe, and describes the attitudes that we, the reader, possess in an honest and ehrlich manner, so that every person can then work on themselves at all times. In understanding teshuvah, this sefer also answers many questions about how we are to relate to our desires, to Torah learning, and to tefillah. (As a note to the English-speaking audience, Rabbi Leuchter published last year a comprehensive approach to tefillah based on the works of the Nefesh HaChaim that has already sold out, and is due to be published again.) Anyone who wants a clear and complete approach to these basic questions, will be able to find it in this truly new sefer. v
Rabbi Fogel is currently a rebbe in HAFTR High School. He is a campus rabbi of the Touro law school in Central Islip and teaches undergraduate Judaic studies in Touro’s New York School of Career and Applied Studies.