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  • Writer's pictureRachel Shifra Tal

Teshuva: Why do we avoid it?

Teshuva: The Ultimate Delete Button, with Conditions That is exactly how the Rambam describes teshuva working: Teshuva occurs when one distances himself exceedingly from the thing wherein he sinned, to the point his identity changes, as if saying: “I am now another person, and not that person who perpetrated those misdeeds”, to completely change his conduct for the good and straight path. (Taken from the Aish article “The Right to be Forgotten”) It is almost upon us, Yom Kippur, the most intense day of the Jewish calendar. If one struggles with making it through life, you are human. Those out there who think life is a breeze, I don't think you are real, or living in reality. Life, is as I like to say, excruciating and exhilarating. Living life takes everything we have got in our arsenal and toolbelt. If you live like me, I am always looking for nuggets of wisdom / tools to get through this thing called life. Multiple times a year, sometimes many times a day, I want off. Get me off this intense ride, that I am not even sure I signed up for! When it comes to Yom Kippur.....if we go with the arsenal analogy, one needs a nuclear device! I haven't had that many Yom Kippurim. Each one is a bit different, I am different, my struggles are different, yet through the years a pattern seems to emerge. I feel that we as Jews have a bit of a love / hate relationship with our Jewish identity and connection with our Creator. Never is it more apparent than when the month of Elul hits....and then comes Yom Kippur. Ah the triggers. • Accepting we don't have control over our lives. (Yes we have some, will get to that in a bit) • Acknowledging G-D as King and a force in our lives • Actually looking at ourselves, our successes, our failures, our shortcomings • Making amends, saying sorry; and even harder, I forgive you • And the most terrifying trigger of all, asking G-D for another year of life I will never ever understand (not making a new vow here, heaven forbid I would have to annul another one!) Why people come to shul on Yom Kippur but not the rest of the year? Why not Sukkot! Simchat Torah! Purim! Much more fun if you ask me!!! Herein, perhaps lies an insight... My kids at bedtime, Oy! Bedtime. It starts well. Goodnight kisses, promises to behave and go to sleep, no talking, no last ditch effort for food and drink. Then begins the whispers. “Be quiet!” “Yes mom”....whisper, whisper, giggle, a thump too loud to be anything anywhere near their beds....bathroom runs....a light quickly switched on.... Then comes the heavy stomp down the hallway, and with the deepest voice the most horrid of all threats, losing beloved screen time for the next day. After several rounds of this, finally, ah, blessed silence. Does it have to be like this? Why? Why do we put off, disregard and hide away from the day as long as possible, then the day finally arrives, such dread... We need Yom Kippur the way kids need sleep, yet we fight it. Yet, when we get to Neilah, no one is counting pages anymore, swept up in the cries of the last hour before the gates close! The shofar sounds at the end and.....such relief. That first glass of water. It wasn't that bad, the songs were good, I feel clear and free. The fun holidays are coming! Phew. And we go home. This. This is life. We know what is good for us. We know how we should be behaving, we know full well. But we block ourselves. Why? When we surrender to experience, to G-D, it is so uplifting and peaceful! Why do we struggle to get there? This is the work of Elul; these blocks we build. I love Chinese medicine, it is all about unblocking your life flow, your Qui, your Neshama. To remove the barriers that imprison us inside ourselves. Here are some barriers. · I am not good enough. · It won't matter anyway. · If I can't do it perfectly, why bother? · I am not strong enough. · I didn't choose this life. · I am too tired. · I am not working hard enough. · I failed so many times, I will just fail again. · GD doesn't care about me, look how much pain I am in I can't. These are chains. It takes great courage to look at our lives, to see what is not working, and to focus on improving what is. The holidays go together. Using one holiday out of our of sequence; it is good, don't get me wrong, but using the entire program is transforming. · Elul. Are we satisfied with just a so-so life? · Rosh Hashanah. We recognize the need for G-D in our lives in order to become and achieve what we should be. · Yom Kippur. We need to go back to basics, start fresh. · Sukkot. To dwell in the safety of G-D, and to realize there is nothing except G-D. · Simchat Torah. We accept and celebrate that this world was made from the Torah, and that the two are inseparable. · Chanukah. Understanding and seeing G-D through the mask of science and nature. · Purim. Realizing the Hishtaldlut (efforts and work) we have in this world and the tremendous power of prayer. · Pesach. Breaking the chains of slavery that bind us. Not just from external foes, but from our own selves. · Shavuot. Accepting the opportunity of the Torah. Reaffirming our mission as ambassadors in this world to the greatest moral code, the guidebook, the bestselling, most-read book on the planet. · And Shabbat. A powerful weekly blessing, that sustains and nourishes us every week. There is more, so much more, but you get the gist. I am an “all or nothing” person. I can't do anything halfway, a little bit. It is my blessing, it is my curse. It can be my greatest strength and my biggest weakness.  It is my work in this world, (among multiple other things. ;) Rebbitzin Tziporah Heller said it best. “There is no such thing as a bad middah (character trait) we should never tell our pure children that they are having bad middot..” (guilty of this one!) Why not? Middot are not bad. We must destroy the labels of good and bad. People are not bad. Our actions, they have an effect. Going into Yom Kippur, this is the work we have to do. The question is not am I bad or good? The better question are: Have my actions brought me closer to my goals? Am I spending time with those I love? Am I working in this world for the better or humanity? The environment? What is holding me back from greatness? Break these chains over my heart. Let me reach for my potential! Let me shatter the walls I have built that don't serve me! Yes. Yes, G-D, please give me another year of life, not just because G-D can; but because I reaffirm, I actively choose, I want to live. I want to live life on purpose. I want meaning. I need that parnassa (finances), that baby, that spouse, that job, that vaccine. I need it. To live. G’mar Chatima Tova. May we choose and be accepted, signed and sealed in the book of life and all good things. Shana tova

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