Reflections on Yom Kippur Teshuva 5778

How do we know if, indeed, we did teshuva?  We fasted.  We prayed and were present the entire day.

When I listened motzei Shabbos to Rabbi Tatz, I breathed a sigh of relief.  He explains that if we have a characteristic that we have great self control over, that does not surface, and we do not uproot it from even coming into our emotional consideration, then when we face the heavenly court after 120 years, we are deemed to be that unrectified characteristic, be it jealous, angry, fearful, haughty, greedy, lustful or whatever human momentum attracts a part of our tzelem elokim to it.  Imagine.  We can be completely without outward sin or improper action in this regard, but until we uproot what stirs in us, we have not fully repaired what Hashem sent us to repair.

Yom Kippur is a day of solitude, fast, and prayer. Whatever is unrectified within us, we are alone with “it” all day.  It comes to mind, and we are torn away from the prayers towards judgments, curses, resentments, or whatever else is flowing through us, like wind touching every molecule of our being.  Perhaps we are trying to believe, hoping that we are atoning for the noise within us by being present, but something is undercover in our hearts, lurking, not letting go.

Step 1 is to completely know that whatever thought is coming to mind  is but a garment over the tzelem elokim, and that what is not letting go – be it a recurring thought or a distant mood – is a stone on our heart based on emotion and natural life experience.  The first mistake we can make is to think that just because I have had this feeling come to mind for 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years, this is the real me.  NO!  This is the characteristic Hashem utters as He Utters my life and every circumstance in my life.  (THANK YOU HASHEM for life itself and a platform from which to serve YOU.) The characteristic itself is a veil, a curtain, that blocks the self that is made in His Image from being revealed in my speech and deeds.  Yes, I dance with it over and over.  But no, I don’t want it or anything it brings out in the world. (Speak to the part that might not believe this, that is hiding in the heart or placing a stone cover over the heart, call that part out too.  Let it know that the heart will still be in control, but it will be healthier and to just be open to letting go for a moment so that healing can occur.) Yes, a part of my soul automatically is attracted to this thought triggered by a circumstance.  But NO!  The tzelem elokim is strong enough to re-associate the elements that turn for survival and pleasure to the calling of nature, the yetzer hara, and return them for survival. Love, caring, and protection to Hashem.  We can acquire a healed and fresh heart!

Step 2 is to remember that we have real free will to call out where our soul has falsely linked its happiness and survival so that we can further discern the elements, earth, wind, water and fire, and then knowingly and lovingly ask Hashem for forgiveness and help.  Fire, radioactive anger, fear, insult, honor and the like, can become appropriate warmth and light.  The fire within us has merely forgotten divine Oneness.  It cannot retain awareness of Hashem Echad because it is blinded by the perceptions of human nature and analytic thinking that believes WE are in control.  Our heart in this regard overrules our mind, for our emotions are rooted in thoughts that are deeply set either unconsciously and operate from human nature, subconsciously from coping mechanisms, or, as we will soon see, from conscious choice that we can effect through prayer.

Step 3 is to name out loud (as we klap) our individual challenge.  Hashem part of my soul is being automatically drawn toward this rolling negative thought that……and I don’t want it or what it will produce.  Describe it in detail.  The water (desire), wind (ego, arrogance, haughtiness, anger), fire (honor, jealousy, desire to curse or take revenge), and earth (sadness, laziness, downward pulls) are missing awareness of Divine consciousness and I am sorry!  Please forgive me!

Step 4 Switch gears to activate higher will that always knows there is Hashem.  Arouse in the heart that I love You Hashem and desire that Your love and mercy extend deeply so that the water, fire, wind and earth within me that are otherwise recalcitrant can have an immediate emotionally tangible experience of the truth of Your Oneness and love from itself, from the heart itself.  Please help me blow love over my heart so that these recalcitrant, dehydrated elements can be returned to the truth of Existence.  Recalling the Avos, Imahos, and great tzadikim who loved Hashem can bolster our love for Hashem and can help us affect our natural reactions .

Step 5  Say Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad with complete emunah.  Do you feel a tinge of doubt?  Does something harden in your heart, that does not want to let go?  Is it fear that perhaps what you need will not come to fruition if it lets go and lets Hashem?  That cynical part now is also grabbing earth, wind, water and fire – and shine the love on those elements trapped in that false belief as well.  Keep folding all reactions back by repeating the Shema and flooding love of Hashem into the heart until the hurricane of objections and obstacles dissipate. Hashem is standing right there ready to wipe the heart and the soul clean and throw the problematic triggers into the depths of the sea never to be heard from again!  Perhaps a tear will come up when we open that one little pinhole so His Love can heal our hearts.

Step 6  See if whatever the trigger was is still a trigger.  Put the situation back into mind.  If you have uprooted it, at least for the moment, there should be a lesser compelling pull and even a false sense of truth to the natural reaction.  Perhaps there will not be any reaction at all, but rather an empathy for the ones through which the circumstances came, a prayer that this teshuva help all of us who find ourselves in such straits and in finding ourselves there, say and do things that trigger others (as we might have done, as we are also vulnerable to doing. ) Thus forgive others , ask Hashem to forgive us.  And klap in the presence of middos Harachamim, the very middos we wish the natural elements to acquire, to retain a sense of Divine consciousness, to inoculate our tzelem elokim from the vicissitudes of the human momentum that the Soton is able to spin as illusions for us.

Step 7  Thank Hashem for helping us return to Him.  Be grateful for every ounce of help, for without His Help, we would be stuck in that human momentum, because we are created lowly within nature and within the domain of nature.  Prayer helps us transcend it and remove the veils of human nature from our hearts so that our heart can become flesh and restored and capable of revealing middos Harachamim, Hashem’s Will and mitzvahs.  We are here to metakain so as to reveal Hashem and in so doing, we uproot and connect our soul more and more to Existence itself.

Step 8 Repeat as often as necessary through the upcoming year.  It may come back, in a less potent form, but embrace it – doing this work IS what we are here to do and what we agree to do to improve the elements so that we can infuse the elements of the world with love for Hashem so that He may be revealed in this world. Ask that our teshuva be a merit for Klal Yisrael so that we are able as a nation to reveal Him as is His Will


May we all become a clearer vessel to reveal Hashem’s lovingkindness in this world!!

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