A Jew who was not in the best of spirits approached Reb Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov in the Beis Medrash; “I need your help Rebbe,” he said in a sad voice. “Last week… I broke Shabbos. I feel so terrible…” Reb Michel was shocked, “How could you do such a thing?” The man was ashamed, “Last Friday I was returning from the market with a wagonload of merchandise when I got lost in the woods. By the time I made my way to the edge of the city, the sun had already set. I was so concerned with my merchandise that I failed to realize that Shabbos had started until it was too late.” Reb Michel shook his head and prescribed him a “method for Teshuvah”, he told this poor Jew that he must lay in the snow for hours, and bathe in cold water during the winter. Doing this will awaken him to do Teshuvah. Yet this Jew was unable to keep up with his difficult regimen of Teshuvah, this brought him to feel even worse for not only did he sin, but now he could not even accomplish his Teshuvah. Just then he heard that The Baal Shem Tov was visiting the town over. This yid saw no other choice but to hope the Baal Shem Tov could give him a method of Teshuvah that would be more realistic. When he got in front of the Baal Shem Tov he told him the whole story, The Besht told him all he should do is buy candles and bring them to shul Friday afternoon. The broken Jew could barely believe his ears. He stood there paralyzed, filled with confusion by the lack of severity in the Besht’s method of Teshuvah. The Baal Shem Tov noticed the confusion and asked, “Why do you act so surpised?” “Because, you gave me a much easier fix than Reb Michel.” And the yid told the Besht all about Reb Michels difficult Teshuvah. “Do what I say,” said the Besht, “and that will be more than enough”. As he was leaving the Baal Shem tov asked him to tell Reb Michel that he should come to the Besht for Shabbos. That Friday after hearing the Beshts invitation Reb Michel harnessed his wagon, and he left very early even though it was a short trip. Yet things didn’t go according to plan for Reb Michel, at the right he went left, at the fork he went right, and he got more and more lost. Before he knew it the sun was setting – Shabbos is about to start and here he is stuck in the forest. Reb Michel got off his wagon and walked his way to town, he arrived as The Baal Shem Tov was about to make Kiddush. The Besht looked up at the new arrival and said, “Now you know. Now you can understand how that broken Jew felt when he came to you. You never knew what it was like to sin, so how could you know if he was being sincerely regretful of his mistakes. But now you know what it feels like to regret your mistakes, and now you know why that Jew had no need for such a difficult atonement. That Jew lit the candles in shul this Friday with great joy and his Teshuvah was immediately accepted. All that is needed to do Teshuvah, Reb Michel, is a sincere heart.”
Yosef, after revealing himself to his brothers said, “And now, don’t be sad or feel guilty because you sold me. Look, God has sent me ahead of you to save lives.” (45:5)
The word, V’ata, and now, is a word that represents Teshuvah. What connection is there between now and Teshuvah? A Baal Teshuvah makes a new start. He says to himself, “My Teshuvah has wiped my slate clean. From now on…” For the past is forgiven and only the now, the present, matters. When Yosef said, “And now, don’t be sad” he was saying to his brothers, “Yes, you must do Teshuvah for selling me as a slave. But do not be sad, do not let your Teshuvah be a source of sadness. For Teshuvah should not be done in sorrow and defeat. Rather Teshuvah should be done with Joy. For all the mitzvos must be done in joy, as the pasuk says (Tehillim 100:2), “Serve God with Joy”. Therefore, and now, when we do Teshuvah “don’t be sad, don’t feel guilty”, for we must not dwell on the failings of our past. Rather we must go from Now on. We should look at the present, the V’Ata, and be joyful at what we can accomplish for good with each moment of the day.