Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Self-criticism can sometimes help us improve ourselves, but feelings of greatness and elevation can help even more. This is what Rabbeinu Yonah, who passed away 756 years ago today, wrote from the city of Girona, in medieval Spain. Rabbeinu Yonah wrote prolifically about repentance and self-improvement. Here, he explains that if we only remember who we are and remind ourselves of our roots, it will be much easier to live properly:
“A person, first of all, should know his self-worth, be familiar with his elevated status and be aware of the greatness of his ancestors and G-d’s affection for them. And, to the fullest possible extent, he should not do anything that would shame his ancestors. When he lusts to do something improper, he should be ashamed from himself and ashamed from his ancestors, and he should speak to his soul and say: ‘A person as great and as important as I, who has many good, elevated, and superior qualities, and who is the descendant of spiritual giants, how could I possibly do this terrible thing and have my sin be in front of G-d and my ancestors for all time?’”
May the memory of Rabbeinu Yonah be a blessing for us all.