The Jewish High Holy Days are days of reflection and reconnection. We celebrate both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur here at Beit T’Shuvah. We are a community of people who are in a constant state of uncovering the places where we hide and recovering the parts of ourselves we are hiding from. We are a community that rejoices in our imperfections. These 10 days of Awe are for us to remember the impact we have on others and on the world. It is a time for us to engage in the process of Repentance, Return and finding New Responses. As a community of Recovering People, we know that this is the cornerstone of our recovery. In engaging in the work of T’Shuvah for the past 29 years, I have developed an understanding and pattern for this work.
T’Shuvah, according to the Jewish Mystical Tradition, was put into the structure of the world before the world was created. I believe this is because God knew we would make mistakes and need a way back. In the 3rd Chapter of Genesis, the Garden of Eden Story, we are taught that God calls out “Ayekah, Where are you” to Adam and Adam’s response is: “I am hiding”. He hides, I believe, because he is in shame for disobeying God’s directive to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He further responses by blaming Eve and so on.
T’Shuvah teaches us that we never have to live in Shame! We are guilty for our errors and T’Shuvah gives us a remedy for our guilt. This remedy is to list the ways we have “missed the mark” and the ways we have “hit the bullseye” in my way of living T’Shuvah. This allows me/us to repair the damage we have caused by our errors, restore the humanity we overlooked/stole by making another person into an object for our use, and have a plan to have a different response to these same stressors when they happen again. I/we also have to be responsible for the good we have done, realize the impact it has had on another and plan to enhance these ways of living/being.
T’Shuvah is a way to change the context of the past, be remorseful for our errors, rejoicing in the good we have done and be responsible to make our future better and brighter. It is also an acknowledgement that WE MATTER! Each of us has an impact on other people and we have to be responsible for our impact.
T’Shuvah at Beit T’Shuvah has allows people to leave the paths of negativity that they have been immersed in and make new neural pathways in our/their brains. It is what gives us the ability to choose and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says T’Shuvah is our “highest capacity to choose freely”. Only by being open to our “whole” story can we make new and different choices.
In the Talmud, Reb Meir, a famous Rabbi, says: Great is T’Shuvah, for one person’s T’Shuvah, the entire world endures. We also learn in the Talmud: In a place where a Repentant stands, even the most Saintly can’t reach. Both of these statements speak to the importance of T’Shuvah, the first is that our T’Shuvah makes the world work better and stronger and the second reminds us that, rather than being ashamed and sentenced to Hell, T’Shuvah raises us up in the Spiritual and Material world.
Here is the Pattern I use to do my T’Shuvah each year:
My hope and prayer is that everyone engages in this work so that we have a world that is more free of prejudice, has more compassion and care for each other and finds ways to make peace where there has been strife.