Jews' Next Dor

Congregation Beth David's Young Adult Group for Jewish 20 & 30 Somethings

Teshuvah Tips and Tricks

Posted by challahbackgirl on October 6, 2008

Here are Teshuvah Tips and Tricks from Rabbi Schonbrun’s drash on Shabbat Shuva.

Teshuvah Tips and Tricks

The Mistakes We Make: We all make mistakes. Almost every day we do things that we really don’t want to be doing. It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

When was the last time you had the following experience? You were confronted with the opportunity to do something that you perceived as being wrong, something you clearly did not want to do; but a funny thing happened on the way to Yom Kippur. The very act that you didn’t want to do, you did anyway. Fascinating. Before you did it, you knew it was a mistake and you didn’t want to do it. While you were doing it, you knew it was a mistake and you didn’t want to be doing it, and after the fact you looked back in wonderment. Not feeling very good about yourself, you pondered, “Why did I do that?”

The answer is this: We are all geniuses, every one of us. When it comes to our ability to rationalize, the Einstein in all of us begins to surface. We are capable of the most convincing bits of intellectual dexterity, temporarily tying our minds in one convoluted not after another thereby enabling ourselves to do what we feel like doing instead of what we really want to do.

This is the root of many of the mistakes we make in life. We all want to do what’s right. Only sometimes we rationalize and do what we feel like doing instead.

Teshuvah is an animated technique for locating the rationalizations that lie at the root of our mistakes: recognizing them, dealing with them and eliminating them.

Four Steps to Teshuvah* – Four Steps to Greatness:

1. Regret (charata):  Regret, as opposed to guilt, is that state of vexation in which one feels a sense of loss. If you misplace your wallet with a thousand dollars in it, you feel regret, not guilt. You have lost something of value. In our striving for growth we must first see that our mistakes in life have resulted in the loss of something we deem to be dear and important.

2. Abandonment (azivah): As General Schwarzkopf once put it, “Gentleman, all I can say is we identified the target in question and it no longer exists.”

Rationalization is the enemy and azivah is an internal mission of search and destroy. I lost my wallet, or worse yet, I lost a friend; now how do I avoid repeating the same mistake? Once you feel the loss it’s then time to set out on a personal mission of search and destroy. You must identify the rationalization, see what it was that enticed you into that cerebral snare and understand the basic untruth that is the nucleus of rationalization. Now you must issue a cease and desist order. Stop the rationalization and put a halt to the action it sanctioned.

3. Confession (Viddui):  In other words, “Now go and say you’re sorry.” There is perhaps no greater torture in a child’s mind than being told he has to apologize… Because when you verbalize your regret it makes every¬thing all too real, like being on a darkened stage with the spotlight on you. There is no escape. The truth about your actions and their hurtful consequences are laid bare for all to see when you utter those simple words: “I’m sorry. I feel awful about what I did, it won’t happen again. I promise.”

4. Resolve (kabalah): Say what you mean, “I’m sorry,” and mean what you say, “It won’t happen again.” With this final act of commitment never to repeat the same mistake, you have come full circle. You have returned.

If a friend comes to you and you see that she sincerely regrets what she did, understands her mistake, wishes it had never happened and with a heavy heart apologizes and pledges never to repeat it, would you not be immediately forgiving?

Practical Application: One of the pitfalls inherent in Yom Kippur is “biting off more than you can chew.” I would therefore like to offer some practical suggestions:

1. Look at your life in terms of three spheres of relationships: one with yourself, one with God, and one with other people. Then, make a list of five mistakes you have made in each sphere and rank them from most to least serious.

2. Take your list with you to synagogue on Yom Kippur and plan a strategy for the day. For example: On Yom Kippur night you will take one of your top three mistakes through the four-step teshuvah process.* During the morning service, you will concentrate on the next two, and so on. Pacing yourself will make this process easier. And if you don’t make it through your whole list this year, there is always next year. (Regarding mistakes where you have hurt or wronged another person, it is most appropriate to ask that person for forgiveness before Yom Kippur)

3. Keep your list of mistakes in a private place, but make sure you won’t lose track of it. You should try to review this list for fifteen minutes once a month.

4. Remember that teshuvah is a unique mitzvah. With other mitzvot (commandments) if you are lacking part of the mitzvah, you lack the whole thing. An esrog and a lulav are made up of four species, but if you are missing one, it is as if you have nothing. With regard to teshuvah, every effort you make and every step you take brings you closer to where you want to be. No one can ever take away a step of progress, a step of growth or a step toward greatness. Shimon Apisdorf, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur Survival Kit

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