Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Season of Repentance is here.

From Today's Lekarev Report:

The Second Day of Elul

People sometimes associate the word 'repentance' (or t'shuva in Hebrew) with feelings of guilt. Is that all there is to repentance?

We want to look at repentance from two perspectives today. First there is the repentance from a sin or misdeed at any time throughout the year. Repentance is essential for forgiveness. There are dozens of references to this principle throughout the Torah and the Prophets.

During Elul, we focus on a much larger aspect of repentance; pondering our past failures (though they have already been forgiven) not for the purpose of getting depressed BUT for the very important goal of learning from our past errors and recognizing the results of them in our lives.

For example, you may be in a work situation with a very demanding employer. You find it difficult, frustrating, at times almost unbearable. And you may find yourself asking, "Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?" Now that is a very good and essential question. There is a biblical principle which many if not all of you are familiar with - the principle of sowing and reaping, cause and effect, people will treat you the way you have treated others, etc. ,etc. And in this regard, it's VERY important to remember that the 'harvest' is always greater than the seed sown. Selah!

It takes wisdom from Hashem to recognize that very often the difficulties or the struggles we are enduring are a result of what we have sown in the past. If we can grasp this insight, the potential for turning our present struggle into a massive tool for spiritual growth is unlimited. Using our example, rather than seeing that annoying person as only that - annoying - we can instead look within, recognize and acknowledge our past behaviors when we caused pain, embarrassment or harm to someone else. Once we make that connection, our present struggle is transformed into a marvelous opportunity to humble ourselves and say to Hashem, "For all the times when others were patient with me, I understand now that it is my time to be patient with this person. Rather than be angry with them, I purpose to be kind. Bless those who put up with me when I was annoying and cause my soul to be purified as I endeavor to treat this person with kindness. I repent for failing to treat others respectfully in the past."

You see, repentance is the process of cleansing and inner transformation; it is much more than just being sorry for our transgressions as important as that is. Real t'shuva brings the penitent to greater holiness of life. Anything less may be sorrow, but it is not genuine repentance.


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I would like to second that notion, and add that Teshuvah can actually be quite joyful. It's knowing a weight is being lifted off your shoulders.

You know that feeling, when your kids, or your roommate, or your friends have made the house a total mess - a biohazard zone! - while you were out, and you are sad and angry, things need to be fixed and you know it. Then you take than energy and put it into cleaning, and throw yourself into it, to get it done quickly and get it done right. Then, at the end, when you survey the scene - and you look around and nod to yourself, and you feel an intense peace and satisfaction. That part of your world has been made right again. It was a disaster, but now it's pleasing and welcoming and clean.

That's how Teshuvah can feel. Yes, it may take some work and hardship to separate yourself from your bad habits, your "sins of choice," and even those friends or family who cause you to sin or are a toxic influence in your life in some way. This is your health and your life - physically, mentally, and spiritually - and we all have the power to embrace a new beginning. Doing the cleanup is work, it's not easy and it doesn't always get done instantly - but the satisfaction and peace you'll feel when you're done is sublime. That is real Teshuvah - when you can look at those parts of your life that were out of Hashem's will and say, "I have cleaned house, and see how peaceful and welcoming it is." Come, Sabbath Bride, to a home and life of peace that welcomes you. Come, Little Presence, and rejoice with us on our newfound strength and determination to not let things get into a mess again.

Shalom chavurim!

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