The Meaning of Teshuvah

“There is no precise English translation of teshuvah, which means by “return” – homecoming, a physical act; and “repentance” – remorse, a change of heart and deed, a spiritual act. The reason the Hebrew word means both is because, for the Torah, sin leads to exile. Adam and Eve, after they have sinned, were exiled from the Garden of Eden. Cain, after he had murdered his brother, was punished by being sentenced to eternal exile (Gen. 4:12). The idea of justice in the Torah is based on the principle of middah kenegged middah, “measure for measure.” A sin, chet, is an act in the wrong place. The result, galut, is that the agent finds himself in the wrong place. Sin disturbs the moral harmony of the universe.”

Ceremony & Celebration p. 11