Eliyahu Jian
Co-Founder of Vital Transformation

Making Teshuvah Different This Year

As the New Year approaches, we resolve to become better people and fulfill the mitzvah of veahavta lireacha kamocha, loving our neighbors as ourselves. However, it seems that every year we set ambitious goals that we struggle to achieve. So, how can we make this year different?  

First, we need to understand what teshuvah is. The Gemara in Kiddushin (49b) gives us an interesting explanation. If a couple were married on condition that the husband was a righteous person, but the wife finds out later that he is a terrible person, the marriage is still valid. Why? The commentators explain that in the moment when the man claimed to be a righteous person, he was reflecting on the concept of righteousness. This implies that he had an initial desire for change, the recognition of imperfection, and the aspiration to become better. The Rambam furthers this idea through actualizing teshuvah and gives us three steps: abandoning the sin, feeling regret, and committing to not repeating the sin. The first step involves introspection, asking ourselves, “How can I change? What are my goals?” Only then can we embark on the path of transformation by taking small but meaningful steps.

We see this movement of taking small steps when the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt and were immersed in the lowest level of impurity and sin. They were hopeless; they felt that they could never change their spiritual reality. When Moshe Rabbeinu came to redeem them, they were skeptical that they could even be redeemed. However, this exact recognition of their low spiritual state gave them the right to be redeemed. Similarly, when we recognize our shortcomings and sincerely desire to change, we set the stage for teshuvah.

Throughout the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, we engage in self-reflection. Last year, we pledged to fulfill the mitzvah of “loving your neighbor as yourself,”  yet we probably fell short, succumbing to anger and hurtful words. But thankfully, our Rabbis teach that the first step towards change is recognizing our shortcomings and having the desire for improvement. Moreover, it is never too late to begin the journey of teshuvah.

Never Too Late

To distinguish between those who are spiritually developed and those who are not, we can observe their response to recognizing their wrongdoings. Imagine you turn to a person and accuse them of being unkind to you. A growth-oriented and spiritual person will apologize sincerely and want to fix the relationship. When someone acknowledges their mistake and seeks to make amends, they demonstrate spiritual values. On the other hand, if someone continues to harm others without remorse or apology, it shows a lack of spiritual maturity and ability to do teshuvah.

As we approach the days of teshuvah, the time when God is ready to forgive our sins, we must remember that it is never too late to change. Wasting time is the greatest sin of our generation; excessive hours spent on entertainment and distractions hinder our spiritual growth. Torah, on the other hand, provides the inspiration and drive to build yourself and bring goodness in the world. We can use this opportunity to reflect and consider how we can love others more deeply, including our family, teachers, and friends. 

Reaching True Greatness 

Rosh Hashanah is a feminine word in the Hebrew language. According to Kabbalah, the feminine nature of Rosh Hashanah signifies that it is a time for us to focus inward. To reach greatness, we must be willing to focus on our true goals. Sometimes, it involves letting go of our small inner desires, such as our pull to be comfortable and respected. 

There is a fascinating image that can help us understand this concept. In Thailand, they catch monkeys by putting bananas in a vase. When a monkey comes to take the banana, they can catch the monkey while he struggles to pull his hand out of the vase. This is a metaphor for our growth; if a person wants to achieve true greatness, he must be careful not to get distracted by the “bananas” around us. We can get stuck and distracted fulfilling our smaller desires instead of focusing on what is truly important. 

Yom Kippur does not atone for sins between you and your fellow unless you ask for forgiveness from your fellow. Thus, if we work on improving our relationships and loving our neighbors, God will be more willing to forgive our other sins. 

In conclusion, the days of teshuvah offer us the opportunity to reflect, change, and grow spiritually. Let us seize this chance to improve ourselves, fulfill our commitments, and foster love and kindness towards others, ultimately bringing honor to our Creator and our Torah.

About the Author
Eliyahu Jian is a global thought leader, motivational speaker, author, and co-founder of Vital Transformation.
Related Topics
Related Posts