Toward the beginning of the Hakdama, (if you've gotten to the part where he says that iluyim tend to say svaros that are not glatt, you've gone too far,) he says that many people have asked, "Why is it that Adam Harishon's teshuva was not fully accepted? He did teshuva, so why was he not reinstated to his status of before the Chet?" Why were the gzeiros of expulsion from Gan Eden and death not reversed? Why was he not restored to that divine splendor that misled some malachim into thinking he was God himself, but instead remained condemned to that woeful and harsh existence that is the human condition?
The Ketzos answers that the superhuman greatness of Adam's existence before the Chet was possible only for a Yetzir Kapav of the Ribono shel Olam, a creation formed directly by Hashem's hand. Adam's teshuva was a superlative achievement, and it saved Adam from untold suffering in Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba. We can even say that Adam, with his teshuva, had recreated himself, as the Rambam says about every ba'al teshuva. But this new creation was the doing of man, not Hashem. Adam had recreated himself, and that which Man creates cannot live forever, cannot exist in Gan Eden, and cannot shine with the splendor of Hashem. At first, Adam was Hashem's creation. With his teshuva, Adam created himself.
With this, he explains the words
The Ketzos'es words are wonderful for many reasons. First, because what he says is exactly the kind of lomdus you would expect from the Ketzos. Second, because the idea that the renewal of teshuva is a true re-creation of the person to the extent that the original identity and characteristics no longer necessarily pertain, is very strong. Third, the idea that man is capable of creating himself is somehow very moving. In Adam's case, this came with a cost. In our cases, it is only beneficial.
But, it's a Ketzos, so it raises more questions than it answers.
1. Everyone, even a tzadik gamur, even if you haven't sinned and done teshuva, we are all constantly making choices about whether to sin or not to sin. Even if we choose the right thing, it is those choices, which we ourselves make, it is our Bechira, that maintains our spirituality, that keeps us spiritually alive. Why is this not also our own ma'aseh yadayim?
2. Isn't it true that "אלמלא הקב"ה עוזרו אין יכול לו?" If not for Hashem's help, we could not withstand the Yetzer Hara (B'B 75a). If so, it is not really "our" teshuva. It is Hashem's again.
3. Along the same lines: It seems to me that doing God-like work, the work of creating a man, is impossible if not by virtue of the God-given ability to rise above nature and to be God-like. If so, it doesn't seem right that the result would be a diminution of our similarity to Hashem. In other words: it's true that the object of the creation was created by a man, but the man who was doing the creating has become more, not less, God-like by doing so.
4. And most importantly: if the Ketzos is right, what's pshat in
Before discussing these questions, I want to point out an interesting thing. In Ki Sisah, Shemos 34:29, the passuk says Karan ohr ponov, that when Moshe came down with the second luchos, his face shone with a powerful light of kedusha. Rabbeinu Bachya asks, why did this happen only after the Luchos Sheniyos? Why did this not happen when Moshe Rabbeinu came down with the first luchos?
The Beis Halevi in his drashos, and the Mabit in his introduction to his Kiryas Sefer, say the same answer (my taitch; best to see inside; also, please note that neither of them address Rabbeinu Bachya's question, but what they say answers the question anyway). The first Luchos were crafted by Hashem and included the entire Torah Sheba'al Peh, and once a person read them, he would never forget them. After those luchos were broken, Klal Yisrael did teshuva for the sin of the Egel, and their teshuva was accepted, and the Torah was given to them once again. Moshe Rabbeinu was told to craft new Luchos, but Hashem did not write the Torah Sheba'al Peh on them, and now it required hard work to learn and to remember the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu, upon receiving the first luchos and knowing the Torah, was like Tashmishei Kedusha, an object that serves the Torah. But when Torah Sheba'al Peh existed nowhere but in his mind, and it came to reside there through his hard work, he became Kedusha Atzma, inherent kedusha in himself. Before, the kedusha was adherent. Afterwards, the kedusha was inherent.
The Torah itself didn't change. But where before it was Hashem's Torah, and we were the beneficiaries of that gift, afterward it became our Torah. Even after all the siyata dishmaya that is necessary to learn, understand, and retain the Torah, it is we, by our hard work and mesiras nefesh, who recreate ourselves, who do the ibbud and kesiva li'shma, to incorporate and reflect the Torah.
I think the same is true of Adam Harishon after his teshuva. Yes, by falling, he was irreparably diminished. Just as was the case with the Torah after the Luchos Sheniyos, whatever he would achieve from that point on was not a gift, it had to be worked for and guarded. But as a result of his work- his teshuva and his efforts to guard his teshuva- his accomplishments were his. My father zatzal used to say, how could it be that Adam, the yetzir kapav of the Ribono shel Olam, could have sinned? The answer is that he was lacking one thing: Chinuch. He was what he was as a gift from Hashem, and gifts are easily lost. Only that which you earn is truly yours. In a sense, he was diminished, but he was also far greater than before.
So, let's go back to the four questions we had on the Ketzos.
1. Everyone, even a tzadik gamur, even if you haven't sinned and done teshuva, we are constantly making choices about whether to sin or not to sin. Even if we choose the right thing, it is those choices, which we ourselves make, it is our Bechira, that maintains our spirituality, that keeps us spiritually alive. Why is this not also our own ma'aseh yadayim?
Answer: there's a difference between maintaining and recreating. Every day, with our bechira to do good and not do bad, we maintain Hashem's briyah, and it is still Hashem's briyah. With Teshuva, we are recreating something that was destroyed. There's a difference between a Shomeir and an Uman. There's no hava amina that a shomer that saves the pikadon from being destroyed is koneh the pikadon. But Uman koneh bishvach keli, because he is making something that was not there before.
2. Isn't it true that "ilmalei Hashem ozro. lo yachol lo?" If not for Hashem's help, we could not withstand the Yetzer Hara. If so, it is not really "our" teshuva. It is Hashem's again.
Answer: When it comes to Bechira, it is one of the fundamental rules of the briyah that Hashem does not mix into our decisions involving yiras shamayim. So our teshuva, even if it could not happen without Hashem's help, has a din of zeh eino yachol ve'zeh eino 'yachol' (kaviyachol). In such a case, both are considered to have done it.
3. Along the same lines: It seems to me that doing God-like work, the work of creating a man, is impossible if not by virtue of the innate ability to rise above nature and to be God-like. If so, it doesn't seem right that the result would be a diminution of our similarity to Hashem. In other words: it's true that the object of the creation was created by a man, but the man who was doing the creating has become more, not less, God-like by doing so.
Answer: There's a difference between the Gavra and the Cheftza. Of course, a baal teshuva, the gavra, has done something that elevates him to the kisei hakavod. But the cheftza, the body, will forever be different.
4. And most importantly: if the Ketzos is right, what's pshat in
Answer: Again, that's the difference between the Gavra and the Cheftza. The Cheftza of our existence in Olam Hazeh is never the same, the same way the Torah of the Luchos Shniyos was not the same as it was in the Luchos Rishonos. By doing teshuva, the person gets a kinyan on his ruchnius and elevates himself to a madreiga that even a tzadik gamur never can reach.
Bekitzur: the luchos sheniyos were missing some of the unique Atzilus of the luchos rishonos, and after his teshuva, Adam Harishon was never the same as he had been before his chet. But only with the luchos sheniyos did Moshe have the Karnei Ohr, and the same was true for Adam Harishon and the same is true for every Baal Teshuva. In the final tally, the gifts you are given don't count for much at all. All that matters is what you make of yourself.