The timely mitzvah of Teshuva is discussed in this week's parsha. Following the commandment to do Teshuva, the pasuk says "For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today, it isn't hidden from you, nor is it distant from you: It isn't in the sky, that you shall say "who will go up to the sky and get it for us and hear it unto us and we shall keep it: Nor is it across the sea that you shall say "who will go across the sea and get it for us and hear it unto us and we shall keep it": Rather the matter is close to you, it is in your mouth and heart to do:"
The Torah is teaching us that this mitzvah is very accessible to us, and therefore we are responsible to do it. However, the pasuk is unclear as to which mitzvah are we referring to. Rashi explains that we are referring to the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, Torah study. The words of the pasuk, "and get it for us and hear it unto us and we shall keep it", seems to imply that the mitzvah is Torah study. However, the context implies otherwise for the previous pesukim were talking about the mitzvah of Teshuva. Therefore the wording "For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today..." would seem to be a continuation to mitzvah of Teshuva. In fact, this is the approach taken by the Ramban. How do we reconcile the simple meaning of the passuk (Torah Study), and the context (Teshuva), and the seeming difference of opinion of Rashi and the Ramban? To resolve this difficulty we must get a deeper understanding of the mitzvah of Teshuva.
The Ohr Hachaim points out an apparent difficulty in the parsha of Teshuva. First the pasuk commands us "...and you shall return all the way to Hashem your God and listen to him ..." This is followed by "and Hashem your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your children... which the Targum Unkelos explains to mean that Hashem will cut away the "tafshus leeba" - the foolishness of the heart. The pasuk then continues by saying "and you will return and hear the voice of Hashem, and follow all his commandments..." The Ohr Hachaim asks, that if we indeed have done Teshuva, why is it still necessary to have Hashem circumcise our hearts? And once Hashem does circumcise our hearts, we are now at the epitome of Teshuva, so how can the pasuk now say that we will do Teshuva once again? What more Teshuva can one do?
To answer this, the Ohr Hachaim establishes that there are three main categories that one must do Teshuva. The first is Torah study. The second is the negative commandments. And the third is the positive commandments. First, a person must do Teshuva on Torah study. After he does Teshuva on Torah study, Hashem will circumcise the heart so he will not have the inclination to violate the negative commandments, and he will return to Hashem to follow the positive commandments.
When the pasuk speaks about the first step of Teshuva, it commands us "and you shall return all the way to Hashem your God and listen to him," this is something that we must initiate. We must take the first step in our Teshuva for Torah study. The rest will come as a result of our initiation with the help of Hashem.
"And Hashem your God will circumcise your heart", "and you will return and hear the voice of Hashem, and follow all his commandments...", will happen because we returned to Torah study. As we say in davening "Hashivainu avinu l'torahtecha- return us, our father, to your Torah," and after that we say "v'hachazirainu beteshuva sheleima lefanecha- and return us to you with complete repentance." The return to Torah comes first.
What is the significance of Torah study? Perhaps it is because the lack of Torah study is what caused us to sin to begin with, so returning to Torah study is what will bring us to Teshuva on our sins as well. But we must take the first step.
Perhaps with this new understanding we can now understand that the mitzvah that Hashem commanded us to do, is in fact the mitzvah of Teshuva. The action we must do to fulfil this mitzvah, is to return to Torah study, which in fact is not hidden or distant from us. Rashi and Ramban are not necessarily arguing, Ramban is referring to the general mitzvah of Teshuva, while Rashi is referring to the practical aspect of the mitzvah
Teshuva is not just retrospection and repentance on our actions. We must strengthen ourselves in Torah study as well, it is a prerequisite to Teshuva.
May we merit to do a complete Teshuva, and have a Ksiva V'chasima Tova.