There are two areas in which the Torah stresses the concept of hierarchy, of a movement from “high to low”, from parents to children.
The first is Torah learning. The Torah expresses this obligation thus “and you should teach your children to speak of them (words of Torah), when you are at home etc.” [Devarim 11; 19]
The second is the learning of history. In Parashat “Haazinu” we read: “Remember days long gone by, ponder the years of each the generation. Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather who will explain it.” In both the abovementioned spheres a “Top-Down” -(i.e. parents to children) relationship is described.
There is a third area, however, in which the movement is reversed-from “BottomUp”. (i.e. children to parents) – this is the area of Teshuvah. At the end of the book of Malachi we Read “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of God. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers o their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” True, there is the movement of “… children to their fathers: i.e. fathers causing their children to do Teshuvah(“TopDown”) but there is also an additional movement of children who cause their fathers to do Teshuvah.(“Bottom-Up”).
Perhaps in this wording of the phenomena of Teshuvah we find an echo of the dispute as to whether-or-not Teshuvah is in fact a mitzvah. To explain the essence of Teshuvah is the realization that one has erred and feels contrition to the extent that one betters one ways, sometimes to the point of extremes.
Is not the notion of –“I am sincerely sorry” undermined, if it stems from a command, i.e. if it is a mitzvah?! Is not the grandeur of Teshuvah manifest in the person who of his own initiative and independence and without any threat from above declares, “I have sinned before Hashem and take responsibility to make amends”. In Teshuvah, therefore, a “Top-Down” command, i.e. a command from Hashem to man, undermines the very essence of the deed.
Furthermore, according to Rav Kook ztz’l, that Teshuvah is not connected specifically to sin but rather is an inner urge to “return” to something (Continued from page 1) better and greater, the notion that Teshuvah stems from one’s own resources is better understood. No wonder that the Rambam in his “Hilchot Teshuvah” stressed the concept of free will as a prerequisite for Teshuvah (at least Teshuvah Mi’Ahava- [see Rav Soloveitchik “Al HaTeshuvah”])