Islamic Terror. Ebola. Financial crisis.
It’s time for us to wake up and do Teshuva.
You hear these types of messages all year round, but they become more pronounced during the High Holiday season – the time Jews traditionally shop around for guilt.
Any time something bad happens, especially on a global scale that doesn’t affect us directly, the word on the street is ‘”we need to do teshuva”.
The problem, in my opinion, is that when you do Teshuva, it sounds like an obligatory act designed to appease a vengeful god.
The lord is angry! Repent! That’s what he wants from you, and if you don’t he shall smite you!
The result is the mindset of doing Teshuva, an action designed to preserve your well-being.
If we think about it a bit more, it should become obvious that an omnipotent, all-powerful God does not actually need us to do anything.
It’s all for us.
One of the purposes of tragedy and difficulty that strikes the world, is to inspire us to become better people. Yes, there is definitally an element of fear here, but at the end of the day, fear is one of the best motivators.
But if the goal is for you to change, then it’s not about you doing anything. It’s about what you become.
Teshuva means to return, to return to God.
Returning to God is achieved through personal refinement, introspection, and yes, action. But this action is far more impactful if it is done consciously, with the intent to become a different person.
In contrast with doing something by rote, to “redeem oneself”; trying to actually change who you are is a much deeper process. It is also one of the most pleasurable experiences a human being can have.
And it is not something you achieve through mindless action – giving X sum to charity, praying X amount of hours, or smiling X amount of times.
Unless of course, you let these actions change you.
At which point you are not doing Teshuva, you are becoming Teshuva, or more accurately, “shav”, the present-tense verb of Teshuva.
You achieve Teshuva by becoming.
So next time your are inspired, or feel the desire to change, or are sitting in synagogue during the high holidays, remember – Teshuva is not what you do, Shav is what you become.