Repentance, Providence & Torah Fundamentals
—Rabbi Israel Chait—
Transcribed & edited by Benjamin S. Silberstein
What is the distinction between the similar ideas found in Maimonides’ Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah (Torah Fundamentals) and the and those found in Hilchos Teshuva (Repentance)? They appear similar, but are different; they are cast differently. I wish to define precisely what that difference is.
Maimonides categorized and differentiated Hilchos Teshuva from Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah. For example, Maimonides never mentioned in the mitzvah of Love of God, anything about God’s providence. In other words, a person can fulfill the mitzvah of Love of God without any knowledge of His providence. Both, knowledge of God, and God’s unity (that He is the sole Creator) are unrelated to God’s providence. But Maimonides said just the opposite in Hilchos Teshuva, which has everything to do with God’s providence; this is its most basic premise. Providence is a theme that permeates Hilchos Teshuva. Maimonides says that teshuva’s formulation commences with “Please Hashem,” [a plea for providence]. Let's envision a person who is a philosopher; he knows that God exists and that there are no sub-deities. He understands the proof of God’s unity, and he fulfills love of God. Maimonides would say that this person would not be able to do teshuva. Just given those principles, he can't do teshuva. An illustration will explain.
One values Love of God as the essence of life. But one day, he wastes that day, and he repents. He is sorry, as he could have used that day to have gained more ideas. He could have drawn closer to God. It was a big mistake he made. When I say closer, I mean he could've had a greater apprehension, a greater knowledge, he would have a better life. His personality would be different. He wasted his time, wasted a day, or wasted a year. Why is this not doing teshuva? According to Maimonides, this is simply a person who realized that he made a mistake, but it has nothing to do with teshuva. Why? Because according to Maimonides, teshuva is based on a different dimension: Teshuva refers to “returning to God.”
I'll approach this from two aspects. One is the practicality of teshuva. Here, I'm going to be very mundane in a sense. And the other aspect are the essential ideas of teshuva, the essence of teshuva. But I will approach both aspects.
Regarding the practical, Judaism (Judaism) maintains that a person has free will (free will) with which one can exercise to either improve or ruin his life. But Judaism maintains that the scheme of existence is not just limited to free will, because there still is one problem. True exercise of free will is an internal process, but there's another hurdle in reaching perfection: chance. The world of chance that a human being finds himself in can disrupt the process of free will. Therefore, a person can be excellent at free will, but if the world of chance conflicts with him, he cannot perfect himself. We have least control over matters concerning our physical well-being. Rich or he is poor, one psychological profile or another doesn't matter…as long as it's not illness. Generally, aside from illness, a person's free will will help him in every area. But what can a person do when he's subject to illness? He can't do anything about it, he's caught.
And he said if you will certainly listen to the voice of Lord your God and that which is straight in His eyes you shall do and you will listen to His commandments and guard His statutes all the illness that I placed in Egypt I will not put on you because I am Lord your Healer (Exodus 15:26).
And that's why the Torah mentions, “because I am Lord your Healer; all the disease I place on Egypt I will not place on you.” And in the Torah’s blessings it says the benefits will be in terms of health. And in the curses are machalaim raiim (evil disease), because what it means is that this is the main area where a person thinks of the providence. Of course, providence is prominent in areas which are not—on the surface—as visible as illness. Illness has a surface visibility, but there are other areas that are even more important that work the same way. And that is in the main area, the area of knowledge, which is subject to chance. It depends upon whom you encounter, the society in which you are raised, the group(s) with which you associate and the era in which you live. This refers to many different particulars. One could be a wonderful person, very good internally at exercising free will, but suppose he never heard of an idea; he was raised with the Yanomami in South America…thereby his free will is worthless. Free will is even more important than the physical. The physical is directly visible, but even more important is a person exercising his free will. It depends upon chance to the greatest degree, and that's something over which a person has no control. How is one in our region different from someone born into primitive tribes? [He is fortunate in an extreme measure, as his free will cannot be exercised due to his greatly limited options and negative influences.]
Torah describes free will:
See I have placed before you today the life and the good and the death and the bad. That which I command you today to love the Lord your God to walk in His path and to guard His commandments and statutes and judgments and you will live and multiply and bless the Lord your God in the land that you are coming to it to inherit it. And if your heart will turn and you will not listen and lead yourself away and bow to other gods and serve them. I tell you today that you will be certainty destroyed; you will not lengthen your days on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to come there to inherit. I testify about you today with the heavens and the earth, the life and the death I placed before you, the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life so that you may live you and your offspring (Deut. 30:15-19).
That's what Rav Yochanan said, that until that time there was no free will, because a person didn't have the opportunity to exercise free will. Because you could have been raised in a society where free will is useless; there is no function of it. Therefore, Judaism maintains that free will is only the beginning, the first element, the internal element that can lead a person to perfection, but there are externals as well. Aristotle maintained it's up to chance whether a person becomes a Plato or Socrates. Judaism disagrees. There is the concept of providence. Which means to say, that if a person exercises his free will on a primary level, in the proper way, then God alters the world of particulars for him. He opens up a world of events and experiences that allow him to exercise free will to the greatest degree, on his level. Maimonides explains this in Hilchos Yeshiva chapter 8. Chapter 9:1 refers to the berachos and the kelalos, blessings and curses:
If we abandon the Torah intentionally and involve ourselves in things that are a waste of time like the matter which it says, “and Yeshurun grew fat and kicked” (Devarim 32:15) that the true judge will remove from those that leave the good things of this world that they strengthened their hand to kick and bring upon them all the bad things that prevent them from acquiring the World to Come so that they should be destroyed in there wickedness.
And he promised us in the Torah that if we perform it in happiness and in good spirits and involve ourselves in wisdom always, that he should remove from us all the things that prevent us from doing it, like illness and war and famine and things like that, and bring upon us all the good that strengthen our hand to perform the Torah such as bountifulness and peace and increased silver and gold, so that we will not need to involve ourselves all our days in things that the body needs for it, rather we can sit in freedom to study the wisdom and perform the commandments so we should merit the World to Come.
This means to say that free will is very nice, but the idea of a self-made man is totally nonsensical because we are subject to a world of chance. It's only an arrogant person that can have that concept, because there is so much chance, that being “self-made” is ridiculous. If a person would think about all the chances involved [in his successes] he would be overwhelmed. His very existence is chance!
What Judaism maintains is that the exercising of free will properly, and even in a small way, that's what chazal say, that God says (Midrash Raba Shir HaShirim parsha 5 piska 3)
Said the Blessed One is He: “My children, make for me a hole the size of an eyelet of the smallest needle and I will open for you openings that wagons and carts can enter through.”
In other words, if you exercise free will properly, even in the smallest manner, God opens the world of events and experiences for you to increase and augment your free will, to merit the olam haba. This is a Torah fundamental. What Maimonides is saying is that teshuva belongs to that realm. In teshuva, what is a person seeking? And here I am speaking on a mundane level. In teshuva a person is not looking for free will, as that's embedded in the soul. What he's looking for on a practical level is that the world of particulars should be arranged and organized for him so he can use the free will, that he can increase his attainment of the good and merit olam haba and increase his portion in olam haba. That's what a person is really looking for in teshuva. Teshuva on a practical level is not based upon the first fundamentals [of Yesodei Hatorah, concerning concepts about what God is and is not]. In teshuva, what a person is trying to accomplish is to invoke God’s providence. That's “ana Hashem; Please God.”
Therefore, if a person simply decides he made a mistake and he wasted his time yesterday, but he has no concept of providence, he is not approaching God as the source of arranging the world of particulars; this has nothing to do with teshuva. He made a mistake, and he is correcting the mistake, but that is not teshuva. Teshuva is “ana Hashem,” where the person is requesting God’s providence. You see, that's his practical motivation in teshuva. There is the natural realm in which man lives, that's yesodei HaTorah. In that realm, a person can say he made a mistake, but it has nothing to do with teshuva, none whatsoever. Teshuva is where a person is engaging in the realm of providence, that's the only realm where teshuva exists. That's what Maimonides posits. This explains why teshuva is always “ana Hashem”, otherwise teshuva would be “I made a mistake,” [omitting a plea for God to step in and alter our events].
Of course when you speak about the practical, the world of events and providence, we refer to justice, God’s justice. That's HaMelech hamishpat. The world of justice is the world of providence. The world of justice is not the world of “the six days of creation,” nature. What does providence mean? It means God judges, that is justice. You see that justice and teshuva are integrally related. You can't separate one from the other, because teshuva is in the realm of providence, and what is the essence of the idea of providence? It is justice.
This explains why Maimonides in Hilchos Teshuva chapter 3 is essential, because it deals with the concept of justice. But Maimonides says one more thing: it's not enough to just recognize justice, but you must have knowledge of the justice in order to engage in teshuva. Since justice is the realm of teshuva, and because justice is the realm of providence, you cannot engage in teshuva unless you have an understanding of the justice. Because otherwise, how are you going to perform the mitzvah? You have no concept of what the area is. So Maimonides says that in order to understand the realm of justice you must understand not only that there is justice, but you must understand what it means; the particulars of the justice as well. You must understand who God condemns, who is condemned through justice, and the distance that that person has from the realm of providence. In other words, it's not enough to just say there is justice and just to say “ana Hashem.” A person must have a knowledge and an understanding of those elements which place him favorably in the world of justice and unfavorably in the world of justice. In short, he must understand the world of justice in order to be involved in teshuva, because teshuva relates to that world, and if you don't understand that world, you have no place in the whole system of teshuva. You must understand this realm so you know how to approach God, and you know what the justice is. That's why Maimonides has both. In Hilchos Teshuvah Maimonides discusses those who are condemned i.e. “the wicked who are judged and are eternally destroyed.”In his last chapter the last chapter Maimonides discusses those who are on the highest level, oveid meiahava, serving God from love. These are the matters you must know: who is distant from God in terms of justice, and who is close to God. Of course it is true that the world of particulars is organized according to the person's closeness to God. That's why Maimonides says in Hilchos Teshuva 7:6:
Yesterday, this one [sinner] was hated before the Omnipresent abhorred, and distant, and an abomination…and today he [the sinner who repented] is beloved, and pleasant, close and cherished…
That's what it depends upon. In order for a person to be in that realm he has to understand the reality of justice, and he has to understand this concept of justice, and those things which place a person favorably in the realm of justice and unfavorably. He must know and understand. He must have a comprehension of the world of justice, that's the world of providence and that's the world of teshuva. The world of teshuva is not the natural realm. The world of teshuva is “to return to God.” It means the person desires a closeness with God and that closeness results in the world of particulars falling out in a way that's favorable for him so that he can continue to approach even further and continue to augment his free will, and increase his knowledge and his chachma and his portion in olam haba.
That is the desire of the individual and he must comprehend, he must apprehend the system in which it exists. Otherwise he has no concept of the world of teshuva. The world of teshuva is the world of justice and the way God relates to man and who is close to God. By being close to God I mean his particular situation is such that it's favorable, and who is distant is not favorable. The whole system must be understood.
That's why Maimonides says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:6:
And these are the one who have no share in the World to Come rather they are cut off, are lost and judged for the greatness of their wickedness and sins forever and ever...
He must know that. He must understand who—in terms of justice—is the most distant, and what are those causes that make a person most distant.
Now let's take a look at that framework, you'll see that Hilchos Teshuva 3:7-8 fits in very nicely:
Five are called Minim, one who says that there is no God and the world has no Ruler, and one who says these is a Ruler but they are two or more, and one who says, there is one Master but He has a body and a form, and so too the one who says that He is not Primary and Source of all that exists, and so too one who serves a star or constellation or anything like it so as to act as a go-between between him and the Master of the worlds, all these five are a Min.
Three are called Apikorsin. One who says that there is no prophecy at all, and there is no knowledge that arrives from the Creator to the mind of Man, and one who denies the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu, and one who says the Creator does not know the actions of mankind. Each one of these three are Apikorsim. Three are the ones who are deniers of the Torah. One who says that the Torah is not from God, even one verse, even one letter if he says that Moshe said it on his own this one is a denier of Torah, and a denier of her commentators and this is the Oral Law. And someone who denies the authority of the transmitters of Torah such as Tzadok and Baitus. And one who says that the Creator switched one commandment with another commandment and that this Torah is no longer relevant. Even though it was from God like the Hegarim all three of these are deniers of Torah.
“Five are called Minim,” refer to the most distant ones, the ones that are furthest removed from the realm of providence, they are the furthest removed from God. This is not Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah where Maimonides is teaching you intrinsically the apprehension of the correct notions, that's Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah. Here, he discusses who is furthest removed from God in terms of justice. This is not philosophy. What Maimonides is doing is isolating those that cannot relate to God because they must have some connection to the physical. And every one of those five is an expression of that. That's why there's no difference between the one who serves a malach and between the first case.
According to us, there should be separate categories. The one who serves a malach admits of God, but he is looking for a meilitz, an intermediary. It means that every one of these five is an expression of a defect of the individual, that he must relate to a physical deity. Primitive societies operate this way.
Yeshayahu the prophet rebuked the people for polytheism. Because a person has a good side in his nature and he has an evil side. So the two deities is a projection outward of things which exist inside a person’s psyche. That means he has to relate to something that's a part of himself; he can’t relate to the real God. The one who serves an intermediary can't relate to God because he must have some kind of a medium. This is what he can relate to. Or, if he says “the world has no governor,” was does that mean? That means that only a physical universe exists—no God. “Only what I see is what exists.” That's what the world calls the ultimate scientist. All five heretics share the same underlying flaw.
“So to [a heretic is] one who says that God has a body and form.” That's obvious. Or, “that God is not alone,” the same flaw. It means he can accept partially, but a part of himself maintains there must be something else. Here, Maimonides is not explaining like he did in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah. He's showing the ideas step-by-step; you must grasp every little step. He is stating why the individual is distant from God, he has this defect of personality, that's category one. Category two are the ones that are Apikorsim. This is an individual that is not a min (heretic), which means to say, that he believes in God. But another matter bothers him:
...One who says that there is no prophecy at all, and there is no knowledge that arrives from the Creator to the mind of man, and one who denies the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu, and one who says the Creator does not know the actions of mankind...
What is this defect? He accepts God, but he can’t accept a relationship between God and man, that's his problem. There are people like that. They can accept that as long as God is an abstract idea, that's fine. But that there is a relationship, “God actually knows everything that I'm doing, He is aware of my every action…that can't be, I can't tolerate that idea.” That's why this apikores can't tolerate prophecy, and why he can't tolerate the idea of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy. It doesn't matter whether he doesn't think God relates to man, or because it is man that is not capable or deserving God's relationship. Either way, he harbors an emotion he can't overcome. You can say because God is so great that he can't have anything to do with man, or that man is not great enough. [He is an apikores either way.] Because Moshe Rabbeinu is qualitatively differentiated, “peh el peh adabeor bo; I speak to him face-to-face,” his denial of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy means that a human being can never be that great.
The same defect operates in one who says that God is ignorant of man’s thoughts. That is the same emotion. That's really what bothers him, that God knows everything. He can't tolerate that concept that everything he is doing is being observed by an infinite being, the source of all existence, he can't tolerate that idea. He has to be free, so he can’t accept that. That's the emotion of the second group.
And the third group is another emotional profile:
...if he says that Moshe said it [Torah] on his own, this one is a denier of Torah, and a denier of her commentators and this is the Oral Law. And someone who denies the authority of the transmitters of Torah such as Tzadok and Baitus. And one who says that the Creator switched one commandment with another commandment...
This means to say he can't tolerate the idea that there is a perfect system that was given at a certain point in history and this system is perfect, it can't be changed. It is the ultimate perfection. “The ultimate perfect system was given thousands of years ago? That can't be; that's impossible.” That's the emotion of the historian. That's the emotion that he can't overcome. That's “makchish magideha.” He feels, “This mesorah (transmission) can't be correct because people make mistakes. It must be that he said this because of this reason and he said that because of another reason. It can't be that we today have the authentic ideas from Sinai. It's impossible.” The broken telephone conversation theory, that is the historian’s heresy. That's the third group.
Hilchos Teshuva is a different type of categorization based upon what a person must know regarding one who is distant from God in terms of providence, and who is close to God. This categorization is based upon the classification according to the causes of the defects that make a person removed and distant from God, not according to the ideas that we must apprehend; the latter is Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah. There are two different frameworks.
The concept of teshuva is not simply that a person made a mistake. The concept of teshuva is a person's relationship to God in terms of providence, which is justice; and a person is desirous of having a situation where his free will can be enhanced through providence, which is kiruv to God. Of course it involves himself and it involves the rest of the world too. That's why Maimonides says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4:
Even though the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh HaShana is a decree, there is an allusion from scripture. Namely, “Wake up sleepers from you sleep and slumberers rise up from your slumber and search your deeds and return with repentance and remember your Creator.” These are the ones who forget the truth in time wasted and those who err all their years in nothing and emptiness which will not benefit and not save. Examine your souls and examine your path and your deeds. And each one of you should abandon his wicked path and his thoughts that are not good. Therefore, every person must see themselves the entire year as though he if half meritorious and half guilty, and so too the entire world is half meritorious and half guilty. If he sins one sin he has decreed upon himself and the entire world annihilation. If he does one good deed he tips the balance upon himself and the whole world to meritorious and caused for himself and them salvation and saving as it says, “and the righteous are the foundation of the world.” (Mishlei 10:25) This one who acted righteously caused the whole world to shift to meritorious and he saved it. And because of this matter all of the house of Yisrael have the custom of increasing the giving of charity and good deeds and to perform commandments from Rosh HaShana until Yom HaKippurim more so than throughout the rest of the year. And everyone’s custom was to rise up at night during these 10 days and to pray in synagogue with supplications and heartbreaking prayers until daybreak.
Maimonides is really a continuation. He says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:2:
A person whose sins are more numerous than his merits immediately dies in his wickedness as it says, “Due to the multitude of your sins” (Yirmiyahu 30:14). And so too, a country whose wickedness is great, immediately is destroyed as it says, “the cry of Sedom and Amora are great etc” (Gen. 18:20). And so too the whole world if its sins were greater than their merits immediately they are destroyed as it says, “And Hashem saw that great was the wickedness of man” (Gen. 6:5). And this calculation is not based upon the quantities of his merits and sins, rather it is based on their severity. There is a merit that counters a number of sins as it says, “Because there was found in him a matter that is good” (Melachim I 14:13). And there is a sin that counters several merits, as it says, “And one sin will forfeit much good” (Koheles 9:18). And the weighing is only done with the knowledge of the God of knowledge and He is the one that knows how to valuate the merits countering the sins.
In other words, what Maimonides introduced over here is that you cannot be involved in teshuva unless you understand the realm of justice. That's chapter 3 of Hilchos Teshuva. Because justice is providence and teshuva is not the natural life, it's living the life that invokes providence. Therefore, Maimonides is saying in chapter 3, when God judges, which is annually; annually means that is the unit. Then he says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:3:
Any person who regrets his performance of commandments that he performed and wondered about his merits and said in his heart "how have I benefited by doing them I wish I had not done them." Behold this one lost all of them and no merit is remembered for him in the world. As it says, "and the righteousness of the righteous will not save him the day of his wickedness" (Yechezkeil 33:12) this is only when he wonders are about the first ones. And just like the merits and demerits of a man are measured at the time of his death so too every year and year a measuring is done of everyone of the denizens of this world merits and demerits on the holiday of Rosh HaShana. One who is found to be righteous is sealed for life and whoever is found to be wicked is sealed for death and the in-between one’s verdict remains conditional until Yom Kippur if he did Teshuva he is sealed for life and if not he is sealed for death.
And then he says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4
Even though the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh HaShana is a decree, there is an allusion from scripture. Namely, “Wake up sleepers from you sleep and slumberers rise up from your slumber and search your deeds and return with repentance and remember your Creator”...
Now he is explaining something parenthetically. Not only is this idea true, but it's actually inferred from the mitzvah of tekiyas shofar, that's the continuity there.
Now he says since this is so, since you see that a person is judged in units, the unit of his life and the unit of year, and you see also that the Torah thought it so important that it created a “ mitzvas tekiyas shofar” which actually points to that idea. The tekiyas shofar for Maimonides is very long; it's a big statement over here. Which means, since that's the case, you see the importance of justice that Judaism made clear from tekiyas shofar on Rosh HaShana, since that's the case he says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4:
...Therefore, every person must see themselves the entire year as though he if half meritorious and half guilty, and so too the entire world is half meritorious and half guilty. If he sins one sin, he has decreed upon himself and the entire world to annihilation. If he does one good deed he tips the balance upon himself and the whole world to meritorious and caused for himself and them salvation and saving as it says, “And the righteous are the foundation of the world.” (Mishlei 10:25) This one who acted righteously caused the whole world to shift to meritorious and he saved it...
This means is that a person worries about things in accordance with their significance. I mentioned this many times. It's like somebody said: “Why does a person worry about a shark in the ocean? The chances are so small, one in several million probably, but the reason is because it is so horrible that one has to be concerned about it.” Conversely, if a person would be concerned about something very good, even a small possibility is something to consider because of the greatness of the benefit.
“Therefore” means that since this is so significant—[Torah even took a mitzvah which has a long remez]—Maimonides says a person must even consider the possibility that he's 50-50, and his one mitzvah is going to save the world, and his one sin is going to destroy it. God’s providence is so significant, that without it, you haven't got a chance. You have free will, but all the world of particulars is going to destroy you. Since that is so significant, you must always consider the possibility that you’re “50/50” and one mitzvah can save the world and one sin can destroy it.
After he gets finished explaining about the fact that you are judged, he says not only that but tekiyas shofar was established. It's a technical mitzvah but it's “a hint” and Maimonides doesn't mean there's any doubt about it, it is part of the mitzvah actually, so it's a kiyum in the mitzvah. Since that's the case, since it is so significant, you have to be concerned. And not only do you have to be concerned at the time of judgment, but even in the middle of the year, because now you're laying down the potential for the judgment.
So even though the judgment doesn't come until the end of the unit, if a person did something which was “tilted the scales towards a good judgment” or the other way, now he created a potential situation for judgment that could destroy the entire world. Even for the potentiality, he must be concerned. That's why Maimonides says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4:
...Therefore, every person must see themselves the entire year as though he is half meritorious and half guilty...
Since, as we have explained, there’s great significance of the concept of justice and providence, now you see it's such an important thing that a person has to be aware even of the [small] possibility. Not only that, but the possibility that “entire world stands in the balance 50/50”, he should think of even that. That's why Maimonides says in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4:
...And because of this matter all of the house of Yisrael have the custom of increasing the giving of charity and good deeds and to perform commandments from Rosh HaShana until Yom HaKippurim more so than through out the rest of the year. And everyone’s custom was to rise up at night during these 10 days and to pray in synagogue with supplications and heartbreaking prayers until daybreak.
Why? This is because it's the time of justice. It’s not in potentia anymore, it's actual. So if in potentia you have to be so concerned because of the significance of the justice, the significance of providence, and what it can mean in a person's life, i.e. Chayei Olam HaBah, it is the ultimate…therefore, certainly in the time of justice a person must be concerned. Then it is in actuality and that's why Klal Yisrael was accustomed to do mitzvos and good deeds to show the significance that now is the time of justice, that's when a person should be concerned about that. That's the ultimate time to be concerned. And that's why Maimonides says before in Hilchos Teshuva 2:6:
Even though repentance and crying out to God are appropriate behaviors always in the ten days between Rosh Hashana and the day of Yom Kippur it is extremely appropriate and is accepted immediately. As it says, “Search for God when He is found,” (Yishayahu 55:6) what is this referring to? With respect to the individual but the congregation whenever they repent and cry out wholeheartedly they are answered as it says, “...like Lord our God whenever we call out to Him.” (Devarim 4:7)
What does it mean? What is necessary for teshuva? Knowledge of what justice is, what providence is, because that's the realm of “ana Hashem.” The realm is the world of the providence, the world of HaMelech hamishpat. Since that is the realm and you must understand this realm, when a person is in actuality in the process of justice, and the mind apprehends justice as an actuality, that's when the teshuva is the greatest. Because then he is in the world of teshuva on the highest level. He's in the world of teshuva in terms of knowledge. He is in the world of teshuva because he's preoccupied with teshuva, because now it's the time of justice. That kind of a teshuva emerges from knowledge and experience and involves the entire soul of a person, and that teshuva is the highest level of teshuva and is immediately accepted by God. But if it's not the time of justice [not the 10 Days of Repentance], even though it's apprehended through knowledge, the experience is lacking, and that teshuva it is not the highest level.
That's what Maimonides means when he says, “that is why that time is the true time of teshuva.” The reality of God “sitting in judgment” makes it more real to the individual. His ideational knowledge becomes alive. Experience is what makes a person think about the whole concept of halacha.
The realization of justice is when the ideas of justice are fully summoned to the highest degree in the person's soul. Then the teshuva is a teshuva which has the highest degree of knowledge. That kind of teshuva is accepted immediately by God.
The time is not a time for God, God forbid. This reference to time applies to man.