Sunday, September 16, 2018

Thinking About Teshuvah

Return

“There is no sin that cannot be mended and remedied by teshuvah. Teshuvah removes a burdensome past and opens the door to a new future. It means renewal, rebirth. The ba'al teshuvah becomes a different, new, person. It is much more than correction, more than rectification. Teshuvah elevates to a status even higher than the one prior to all sin. Even the perfectly righteous are surpassed by the ba'al teshuvah.”

Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet [1935–2013],
The Dynamics of Teshuvah;”
 To Touch the Divine (1999);
as posted on Chabad.org

In a few days will be Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּיפּוּר‬; Day of Atonement) and also called “Sabbath of absolute rest” (Leviticus 16:31), the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance. It is a holy day. During this period of rest, Jews throughout the world are free to think about the merits of teshuvah (תשובה; return). The article, by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, which I quote above,  is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also like what Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene, writes (“Yom Kippur: Of Angels & Men;” October 7, 2005) on the subject of return for Torah.org:
The literal translation of the word teshuvah, repentance is “returning to oneself”. Where a person has deviated from the pathway of life by not observing the Torah laws, to achieve forgiveness, it is imperative that he “returns back on track”. This means identifying himself with his soul and not associated himself with his body.
In other words, the return is to Torah Judaism, not always an easy task, and often not an appealing one for many Jews in the world, who know not where the soul is or where it can be found. The body we all can both see and feel; the soul, on the other hand, is not tangible, and yet it is very much a part of us. Thus, I sense that it is important that each Jew ought to move in such a direction, step by step, if he is to find some meaning and a sense of peace in life. If he is to rediscover his true self.

The same rabbi ends this brief article with the following piece of good advice: 
The way to national and personal forgiveness is to confess and repent by declaring complete detachment from one’s past failures, when the external kernel and layers of sin are discarded. This is Yom Kippur’s atonement, when the true nature of every Jew, his pristine spiritual soul, is of paramount importance.
This is an encouraging thought, one that helps to better one’s mental heath and move us away from discouragement and despair. Past failures do not and should not weigh us down, and equally important should not define who we are. Each Jew can return to himself or herself, the way he or she is meant to be. Each mitzvah is an accomplishment for the soul, helping us to ascend higher. This is very freeing, and a thought that can lead to peace of mind; and more so if one could put this into daily practice and live like this.

The rabbis say not only that we should but also that we can.

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