The mother of the Chofetz Chaim was once asked why she thought she had been zocheh to have a son such as the Chofetz Chaim. She could not think of anything she had done to warrant such a son. They pressed her and said you must have done something special. She said the only thing she could think of was before she married, her mother had told her that any free minute she had, e.g., while waiting for the soup to boil or some such opportunity, she should use to say a few p’rakim of T’hilim. This is what she did, and she felt that in the z’chus of the T’hilim she said, she was zocheh to have a son such as the Chofetz Chaim ( ).

According to the Chofetz Chaim, “The s’farim teach that when a person is accustomed to a particular midah ra’ah (bad character trait) and acts in that way in front of others, if they copy him he is held accountable for the negative influence he had on their lives (Yoma 86a, Rashi “K’gon”). The Chofetz Chaim adds, it is known that Hashem’s rewards are greater than His punishments (Sanhedrin 100b) and so, all the more so will a mitzvah or midah tovah that one has and which is copied by others become a source of great merit for him – as he obtains a cheilek in their maasim tovim.” As we do t’shuvah in a particular area or in a particular way, let us take the words of the Chofetz Chaim to heart and bring those around us who may have had a similar fallibility or fault back with us – for our own merit and the merit of all of klal Yisrael!

Rav Dessler brings a mashal about the spiritual progress and development of a tzaddik versus a ba’al teshuvah.  The tzaddik advances in his service of Hashem bit by bit, like climbing the rungs of a ladder. The ba’al teshuvah on the other hand is like a cripple who doesn’t have the arms and legs with which to climb. From his lowly place, watching the raging waters rise from below, he cries out for help. At that point, Hashem comes and raises him up to great heights.

The ba’al teshuvah cried out for assistance, and Hashem came to lift him up. It was Hashem who brought him to his current level; he couldn’t do it himself.  The truth is, though, that the tzaddik goes through the exact same process, too. As it says:

For a man is not righteous on earth that he does good and never sins. (Koheles 7:20)

A tzaddik falls seven times and rises…

(Mishlei 24:16)

Even a tzaddik will reach a point where he recognizes that he can’t go further, and he needs to pray to Hashem for divine mercy. Hashem then raises him up to the next rung on the ladder.

The tzaddik himself cannot move unless Hashem helps him get there. The difference between the tzaddik and the ba’al teshuvah is that Hashem’s assistance is hidden by the fact that the tzaddik is doing so much work.

This is the explanation of “In a place where a ba’al teshuvah stands, even a perfect tzaddik can’t stand.”

Hashem’s involvement and divine mercy is much more revealed with the ba’al teshuvah, than it is with the tzaddik. But, at the end of the day, both of them really need assistance.

No matter where we are, or how many times we fall, Hashem is our Father in Heaven. When we sincerely cry out to Him in search of divine mercy, He will turn to us, love us as His children, and help us to move forward.  (Material was previously published on