The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur period is always a time of focusing on books with ethical messages and guides to improvement. The classic Shaarei Tshuvah: Gates of Repentance is probably a top choice for many to learn at this time. Written by Rabeinu Yonah and first published in 1505, this book is a pillar of mussar (ethics) study and is used year round. For quite some time I have been planning to dedicate time to learning this book and Feldheim’s newly revised Shaarei Teshuvah: Gates of Repentance was the impetus to start. There is a new English translation which makes the book as accessible as possible. I found it very helpful when confronting some of the (literally) medieval Hebrew. Footnotes appear often enough to inform and assist but not so often that they distract. I am grateful to have had this book over Rosh Hashanah. I smiled when I realized that the translator (Rabbi Yosef Leibler) and I belong to the same shul!
This book is a classic for a reason. It clearly lays out the importance of repentance as well as how to accomplish this task. In painstaking fashion, the various mitzvos and prohibitions of the Torah are categorized so that an understandable system is available to the reader. In fact, the whole book is structured with incredible precision, each category followed by sub-categories and more sub-categories. It is sophisticated and rich in detail and wisdom.
The messages of the book are powerful, often way beyond what our generation is used to hearing. Yet, I think this book ought to play an important role in education today. A properly prepared Rebbe or teacher could use this book as a full curriculum. It would be wonderful if Feldheim could provide a study guide or lesson outline for educators to accompany this book. Despite being over 500 years old, there is so much that a modern Jewish education system can glean from this work. Feldheim should be thanked for the investment of time and resources to publish this completely revised edition. I hope that it will lead to this important book being used to a greater extent in schools and yeshivos.
This book belongs in every Jewish library – home or otherwise.