The Gemara at the end of Masechet Yoma (86b) states that the concept of Teshuvah is Gedolah, remarkable, in that it has the power to “Docheh Et Lo Taaseh SheBaTorah,” “erase the record of any negative commandment that one may have violated.” The Chatam Sofer questions the novelty of the Gemara’s statement, as we are familiar with the general principle of “Aseih Docheh Lo Taaseh,” “A positive commandment overrides a negative commandment.” If a positive commandment generally has the strength to push aside a negative commandment, then it should be obvious that the positive commandment of Teshuvah should have the ability to push aside and thereby remove any negative commandment that one has violated! What, then, is the greatness of Teshuvah above and beyond the other positive commandments that warrants the Gemara singling out its own specific power of erasure?
The Chatam Sofer quotes the teaching of Chazal (Yoma 86b) that there is a difference between Teshuvah MeiYirah, through fear, and Teshuvah MeiAhavah, through love. When one performs Teshuvah MeiYirah, the transgressions that were performed BeMeizid, purposely, are transformed to acts that were in fact performed BeShogeg, mistakenly. While the Aveirot still exist, they are viewed by Hashem as if they were performed inadvertently. In contrast, Teshuvah MeiAhavah has the ability to transform purposeful transgressions into Zechuyot, merits. Thus, by performing Teshuvah out of love, one need not utilize the principle of Aseih Docheh Lo Taaseh, since the Teshuvah is not pushing aside any visible Aveirot; once the Teshuvah process begins, there is no remaining trace of the Aveirot. The principle of Aseih Docheh Lo Taaseh is applied only in the instance of Teshuvah MeiYirah, since in such a case the Aveirot still exist, albeit BeShogeg.
One of the rules regarding the principle of Aseih Docheh Lo Taaseh is that we don’t rely on this principle when we can perform the Aseih without the violation of the Lo Taaseh (see Tosafot Gittin 41a s.v. Lisa), leading one to the conclusion that if one can perform Teshuvah MeiAhavah, he should not default to Teshuvah MeiYirah. This idea in turn illuminates the novelty of the Gemara’s statement. Teshuvah is so extraordinary that it allows one to be Docheh a Lo Taaseh by performing Teshuvah MeiYirah despite the fact that he could have removed the Aveirot altogether by performing Teshuvah MeiAhavah.
May we all merit this Yom Kippur achieving a complete Kaparah, atonement, for all of our sins through Teshuvah MeiAhavah and thereby add to our Zechuyot and the Zechuyot of all of Klal Yisrael.