Tuesday, July 25, 2006

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What is this Teshuvah Thing?

Teshuvah, teshuvah, what is this teshuvah thing? Everyone (well, Jewish religious everyone's anyway) are calling for teshuvah. What's a teshuvah and where do I get me one?

I've been thinking about this somewhat regularly, because of current circumstances (Israel), because of the call of the gedolim, and because of besuros hageulah (redemption happenings), and because I've got plenty of needed teshuvah to worry about. Everyone keeps calling, DO TESHUVAH, but nobody, and I mean nobody, defines what it is. What, how, and when?

Teshuvah is usually translated as repentence, or to repent. But frankly, what the heck does that mean? Here's the pure Jewish religious legal definition:

"If a person transgresses any mitzvah of the Torah, positive or negative, willingly or unintentionally, when he (feels regret) and (resolves not to transgress again), he must confess before G-d (say so in prayer)..." (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, 1.1)

"Complete Teshuvah - A person who confronts the same situation in which he transgressed and has the opportunity to transgress again, but doesn't because of his teshuvah, not because of fear or lack of strength." (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, 2.1)

So that's the straightforward definition. Missed a mitzvah or violated one, regret it, resolve not to repeat it, pray about it, then (the hard part), don't repeat it.

But Teshuvah is also translated as connect, or reconnect. Missing a mitzvah or committing a sin, G-d forbid, is not just 'breaking the law', it's creating a separation between you and your Father in heaven. Teshuvah is not just getting out on parole, it's reconnecting with G-d. It's being pained that there was a breech, and resolving to repair it.

In many ways, this latter concept of teshuvah is the most important.

Since we never know how much time we have left on this earth, teshuvah is appropriate every day! Yet, reality is many (including myself) get wrapped up in our daily lives. Teshuvah is not a daily thought (which perhaps is one of the great needs for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the time in between).

But my friends, right now would seem to be a very very good time to make a point of it. Whether we are about the enter the time of the geulah, or are just in a dangerous time for Israel and all K'lal Yisroel, it's time to focus on teshuvah. Yom Kippur is a little early this year.

Yidden, during the high holy days we put aside, at least somewhat, our daily concerns and focus on Hashem. Now is also such a time.

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