Maimonides’ Laws of Repentance - Chapter 2 Law 6;
“Even though ‘The repentance’ and ‘The calling out’ is beautiful at all times, during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hakipurim it is exceedingly beautiful and it is immediately accepted as it says: ‘Search for God when he is found, call out to him when he is near’.”
There are a number of questions on this Law:
1. What does it mean by the “beauty” of repentance?
2. What is special about the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hakipurim?
3. Why does Maimonides use proper nouns (“The repentance”, “the calling out”)?
4. Why does he reference ‘”The repentance” and “The calling out”’ in the singular form?
5. How does the added beauty make it accepted immediately?
To answer these questions we must first define beauty. I would like to propose a definition for beauty: beauty is that which attracts (a person) by virtue of itself.
When a person observes a beautiful thing and is attracted to it; it is not purely a subjective experience. Rather, it is actualizing something that the object had in potential all along. Because this potential to attract is ever-present in the object, we can call something beautiful even if it takes an expert to recognize its beauty.
Repentance is beautiful in this sense. The structure of repentance is a perfect, abstract structure; a phenomena which can instantaneously change someone from being distant from God, to being close to him. This produces a phenomenon such that the mind, which sees it and its benefits, cannot help but desire. A person who sees these ideas is naturally drawn towards repentance.
During the Ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hakipurim this beauty is enhanced. The special commandments and prayers, which are done during this time, bring the ideas of repentance and calling out into a whole new theoretical structure. Instead of only having a structure of the outline of repentance, the particulars are now given expression in the structure of the commands. We have “Shofar”, “Slichos”, and the Blessings of “Malchios”, “Zichronos” and “Shofros” amongst many others; all of which create a symphony of Halacha and Hashkafa. This is what the verse means by God being “close”, In his guide to the perplexed[i] Maimonides defines “closeness” of God, as knowledge of God. During these ten days, God presents us with a special opportunity for knowledge, which enhances the idea of repentance.
This also explains the use of proper nouns and the singular form. Maimonides is not talking about the actions of repentance and “calling out” but rather the abstract entities. As an abstract structure they are both part of the same institution of a person recognizing his place as distant from God, and the need to be close. This abstract entity “The repentance and calling out” is where the beauty lies. If he used a common noun it would imply that the beauty is only in the results.
We can now explain why repentance is especially accepted during this time of year. During the course of the year true repentance is only available to the highest-level person. It takes many years of study and perfection for the beauty of philosophical repentance to attract a person. During these ten days the added beauty of repentance is visible to everyone. Due to the intricacies of the legal structure everyone can be attracted to the reality of closeness to God. As soon as person is drawn towards it, naturally, he is accepted. He is no longer repenting due to an obligation but rather due to his souls yearning for and recognition of God. When this happens he has reached the quality of “Ahavas Hashem” which is[ii] “doing the truth because it is true” when a person serves out of love he is operating in the ultimate human framework where he will be accepted.