I have been hesitating to write about this for most of the month of Elul, and if I do not do it now then it will be too late. Firstly, I am not qualified in deeds or knowable enough about these Teachings. But like the Chazan says in the pre-Mussaf Prayer– Here I am impoverished in deeds, but we need to pray to you almighty God. Ok, I am paraphrasing.
So, I will write down some teachings that I have gleaned from various Books and lectures I have attended.
Teshuva can be overwhelming, but I had look the ideas expressed in Rav Kook’s Classic Orot HaTesheva.
Surprising, his approach does not only focus on our sins, but is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth. So where do we start? Rav Kook’s Teshuva encompasses Teshuva for the Individual, Am Yisrael, The Nations of the World.
So as regards the Individual – a healthy self-esteem is very important. Rav Kook talks about returning to yourself – the true nature of one’s inner life – return to your soul- to who you are. Reb Shlomo Carlebach sings a beautiful song about this.
Returning to your self – This is a time of introspection – To think about who you are you. In fact, Reb Shlomo says “How can we answer our Children if they ask– what are we doing here, what is our life goal?
Rabbi Yaakov Haber in his Book – The First Ten Days – describes the days of Rosh Hashanah in terms of the 10 Kabbalistic Sefirot – Each day there is question for us to consider corresponding to the day.
- Keter (Crown) – Ask yourself what you desire in Life?
- Chochmah (Ideas) – Do you hate people before you get to know them?
- Binah (Understanding/Build) – Build on your Ideas – Who would you like to become this year?
- Chesed (Kindness) – Ask yourself – Are you kind to strangers?
- Gevurah (Din – Judgement) – What areas of my life are out control? e.g. Over eating
- Tiferet (Beauty) – Do we look for the good in people (who we disapprove of ?
- Netzach (Forever) – How do we make our dreams a reality?
- Hod (brings Netzach to by harnessing its potential) – What are goals for the coming year?
- Yesod (Foundation) – How do we bring Holiness into our material world?
- Malchut (Majesty) – How do we find Balance in our Lives? How do we thank God?
Rav Kook’s Teshuva involves 3 Stages
- a) Healthy Body and Mind
- b) A healthy orientation to religious belief
- c) An idealistic aspiration to be in line with G-ds plan for the Universe
This obviously leads the Concept of World Redemption – World perfection
Rav Kook talks about the battle of the materialism vs the spiritual connection.
Rav Dessler writes about Being a Giving vs being a Taker.
In fact, these are two sides of the same Coin. Life is about finding a balance of these two. What is true for the Individual is the same for a Nation.
In this regard, we should consider what it means for the Teshuva of Am Yisrael- The Jewish Nation – Israel as a collective body to Teshuva.
Some Questions to Ponder
Are we treating those with different views to ourselves with some form of respect?
- How can we uproot Jewish Homes and not seek a more rational financial compromise?
- How do continue or not continue after another fatal terror attack?
- How do we interact with those you hate us?
- How can we expect the Nations to recognize our Rights to Eretz Yisroel when we do act like we are sovereign in our land?
- Feel free to add your own Questions
In His Shabbat Teshuva Drasha, Rabbi Berel Wein talks about that just by living in Israel, we are doing Teshuva. Despite all the good in Israel, we are surrounded by enemies on all sides who wish to destroy us and not Knowing when or where the next terror incident will occur. This implies strong faith!!
The Nations of the World – Some Questions to Ponder
- How come the World is so Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel?
- Is it something we are doing wrong?
- Feel free to add your own Questions
In a weird way we are seeing Teshuva for example in America with re-recognition that slavery was wrong and immoral?
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I have tried to paint a short outline a few ideas to make you stop & think.
I want to end of with Psalm 43 – Which so expresses our Hope and Payers at this time. (Do you recognize the last sentence from our Davening of Rosh Hashanah?)
Avenge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unkind nation, from a man of deceit and injustice For You are the God of my strength, Why have You abandoned me? Why should I walk in gloom under the oppression of the enemy? Send Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me Your Holy Mount and to Your dwellings. And I will come to the altar of God, to the God of the joy, and I will thank You with a Harp, O God, My God. Why are you downcast, my soul, and why do you stir within me? Hope to God, for I will yet thank Him for the salvations of my countenance because he is my God.
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For further reading:
- The Art of Teshuva – Commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman
- Michtav Eliyahu – Rav Dessler
- The First Ten Days – Rabbi Yaakov Haber