On a shallow level, ‘Teshuvah’ simply refers to someone who goes back to the Jewish faith and resumes its practice after lapsing. On a deeper level, it is much more.
You ‘return’ from the midst of evil in yourself, and retrace your steps back, through hell, to the truth of the heart. This is a path of experiencing and undergoing radical heart problems that must be embraced, bc through such honesty and courage these hidden and obscure heart ‘moves’ are understood from the inside. You struggle in the heart. That is the hardest ‘labour of the heart’, as it is termed in Hebrew.
The Hasids say the Returning One is closest to God, more ‘profound’ than the saint, the zadik, the guru, the geron, the staretz, the holy man or holy woman, of old. The Returning One must face the deeps of the heart as no saint is required to do. In Judaism, the Way of Teshuvah is regarded as very rare= very few people can do such ‘return’ from the heart of stone to the heart of flesh without being destroyed in the canyons and caverns, ravines and abysses, of the hell that lodges in the deep heart. If saints are rare in any human population, then the Returning Ones are rare even among the population of saints.
The second passion book closes with the theme all the passion writings culminate in. Christ’s Cross, Descent into Hell, and Resurrection, is God as human walking the Way of Return, in its depth, its darkness, its suffering, in order to open the Return through hell to all people. The righteous reject it, thinking they don’t need it. In a way, they don’t [which is why Christ says he did not come for the righteous, but for the sinner, the person ‘failing to hit the mark’]. These upright persons are on the saint path, of Light and Joy, but no heart depth. The Way of Teshuvah is most relevant to the broken, the defeated and ruined, the morally bankrupt, provided they know they are in such a condition in the heart, and both take responsibility in acknowledging it yet also put their hellish heart into the hands of the Messianic Path of Teshuvah.
Christ opens a door previously locked, the ‘gates of the deepest darkness’ in the Book of Job, and invites even the ‘worst’ in the human tragedy — especially the worst who can have no pretensions and delusions about the human heart — to pass through that now open door. The First shall be last, the Last shall be first. The broken and tempted of heart, who pass through that hell to emerge out the other side, will know the heart greater than good and deeper than evil long before the saintly, the morally righteous, the mystically enlightened. The Messiah incarnates the Way of Return as the Way of Reversal.
This is why God said of the ‘wave tossed’ David that he was ‘a man after my own heart’, something God never said of Moses.
This road involves profound lamentation, grief and anger, yet in its dark deeps, in its ‘black inexplicable pain’, the Fire of Spirit is kindled and burns in the heart.
The old saints and gurus and masters were men and women of the Light, the Uncreated Light of God. The Light Bringers.
The new persons of Teshuvah, a few in Judaism yet paradoxically opening to everyone in Christianity [which is why redemption in Christianity is universal and unconditional], are the suffering and burning ones, the Fire Bearers.
The Light belongs to the past.
The Fire is coming in the future.