Teshuva through an IDF Soldier’s Eyes

(Gil Kremer, Israel Defense Forces)

A young man from the IDF gave a wonderful speech after services in Magen David Sephardic Synagogue today. He talked about the time now between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are the Ten Days of Repentance, and he had a beautiful new angle on this which I really appreciated.

He said, just think about it: “You have the chance to say I’m sorry, I regret what I did, and I won’t do it again, and be forgiven — what a tremendous opportunity that is!” I had never really thought of repentance in this particular way…as an opportunity. Usually, it’s more of something that is uncomfortable, difficult, and that we really don’t want to have to do.

There are three key steps to repenting on what you did wrong and despite how rewarding it can be, each step is difficult in and of itself let alone taken as a whole.:

  • Taking Responsibility: First, it can be difficult to even acknowledge that we did something wrong. We like to be right, and it’s hard to admit when we’re wrong. Yet, we do need to take responsibility for the things that we say and do that are wrong in life.
  • Taking It To The Other: Second, it is difficult to confess what you actually did–to “own it” and say ‘I’m sorry” to the face of the person you wronged, whether it’s to another human being or even to G-d. It’s one thing to acknowledge it to yourself, and it’s a whole other thing to bear the wrongs openly and with the shame and pain that comes with that.
  • Taking Control: Third, and probably the most difficult thing is to actually make a real commitment to never doing that thing wrong again. It’s one thing to say I’m sorry and it’s quite another to take control over ourselves, to not succumb to temptation and break bad habits.

Yet as difficult as these things are, still we have an ability to clear the slate, to make things right, and even to be forgiven for our transgressions, and what a tremendous opportunity this is for us. We can become better people from it!

The special forces soldier said that in life we don’t always have such a wonderful opportunity like this, especially when we make a mistake and the damage cannot be undone, like when lives are literally at stake. In an example, the soldier talked about special forces training where they go for 16 months of incredibly high intensity training and physical and mental challenges, including sleep and food deprivation while learning self-defense and performing incredible tests of endurance. He told a story of how one soldier made it through all the many months of training, but then during the final exams where they simulated real world fighting and had gone without sleep and food for most of three days, one soldier during a short break, took off his helmet and feel asleep for a moment. Upon realizing his mistake, the soldier just wanted to say to his superiors, “I’m sorry, and it will never happen again Sir!” But in the military where mistakes can literally mean life and death for people, there is no opportunity to take it back, and consequently, the soldier was failed.

So with a few more days to go before Yom Kippur, let us thank G-d for the chance to make amends and do better in life, because this is an incredible opportunity and a true blessing, and one that we do not know will ever come again.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is business and technology leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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