In Rav Soloveitchik’s notable work Al HaTeshuvah, The Rav contrasts the two aspects of Teshuvah that are innate to Yom Kippur: Kaparah and Taharah.1 The Rav suggests that Kaparah is a substantial Teshuvah; however, Taharah is a definitive Teshuvah. He cites a Sugya in Sanhedrin (25b) where the Gemara suggests that Teshuvah Gemurah is achieved when one who charges interest to his fellow Jew, for example, refrains from charging interest altogether (even to a non-Jew). The Rav expounds on the Gemara and states that Teshuvah Shel Emet (true repentance) is where one completely disassociates themselves with the actions involved in performing a specific Aveirah.
The last Mishnah in Massechet Yuma2 records a well-known statement of Rabi Akiva:
“Amar Rabi Akiva Ashreichem Yisrael! Lifnei Mi Atem Mitaharin UMi Metaheir Eschem? Avichem SheBaShamayim… Mah Mikveh Metaheir Et HaTemei’im Af HaKadosh Baruch Hu Metaheir Et Yisrael,” “Rabi Akiva says, fortunate are the Jewish people! Who is it before whom you become pure, and who is it who purifies you? Our father in Heaven (Hashem)… Just like a Mikveh purifies the spiritually unclean, so too Hashem purifies the Jewish people.”
The Rav suggests that just as a Mikveh requires total immersion, so too Teshuvah Gemurah (complete repentance) stemming from Taharah requires a complete repentance from all forbidden actions.
May we enter this new year clean (Mechupar) from sin and completely pure (Tahor) in action. We wish you a Gemar Chatimah Tovah and a Kol Tuv from Kol Torah!