Reflections on Teshuva, Rosh Hashana, and Parshas Nitzavim – it is up to us – time to ask

From Why we tremble, the Miracle of Teshuva  Rosh Hashana Day 1 by Harav Kalman Schwartz

“… what happens when a person sins?  On a basic level, sinning is a rebellion against Hashem. It is a terrible action by an ungrateful creation….when Hashem created the world, He created spiritual forces within it, both positive and negative.  When a person does a mitzvah, he elevates positive spiritual energy in the world. And when, chas v’’shalom, a person sins, negative spiritual energy is increased.  The evil energy created when a person sins forms a barrier between Klal Yisrael and Hashem.

On Rosh Hashana, when Hashem’s Kingship in the world is being reinstated…there must be a removing of this barrier between Hashem and His people, for there is no king without a nation.  But how can it be removed?  It would seem that even teshuva would not suffice for the damage is done, the wall is there.  How can a persons’ regret and commitment to improve remove the damage he did.?….How can we undo the damaging forces that we have created?

This is the miracle of teshuva….in Hashem’s great goodness, He implanted within creation a method to reverse the damaging effects of our actions.  That is teshuva. That is the miracle we hope for each year on Rosh Hashana.

The heavenly light

The sefer Siach Yitzchok explains that the power of teshuvah emanates from the revelation of a heavenly ohr, light.  This otherworldly light derives from the Next World, in the time of Mashiach – by Your light may we see light (Tehillim 36:10) refers to the light of Mashiach.  One who does teshuvah is able to tap into it and connect to Hashem which then allows the light to erase the negative forces created when we sinned and were separated from Hashem.”

From the Chosom Sofer on Napolean’s attack on Pressburg, from which he fled and returned – An important teshuva drasha to his congregation regarding why he left and what teshuva they, as a community, to do in light of Hashem’s permitting the attack in the first place.

 The understanding that a captive cannot redeem oneself is the dynamic piece to comprehend.  Like the quote above from the miracle of teshuva, there is a sense that a tzaddik is able to reach through o daas, through emunah, through  compassion, a certain  light from which he is enabled to evoke Divine compassion. 

Gemara in  Brachos we read the well-known dictum
a captive cannot free himself from prison

In Parshas  Nitzavim, the pasuk says “For this commandment that I command you this day is not too wondrous for you or too far away,”

Most of us are not tzaddikim.  What category are we?  Hopefully, we will be considered beinonei rather than rashaim.  A beinoni is ruled by both inclinations.  In other words, the beinoni has both inclinations pulling on him in opposite directions and he must have the wherewithal to distinguish and thereby ignore the advice of the evil inclination.

Just listening to the good inclination does not make us a tzaddik.  Why?  Because we still have both inclinations doing battle within us.

In the words of the Vilna Gaon,

“Hashem’s Kingdom must be found everywhere, for real fear of Heaven must primarily be found in the farthest-flung place of creation.. And that place is ‘the rock which the builders despised.” The purpose is to attach the lowest [namely the nefesh] with the highest [ namely the Divine Plan]…and that became the cornerstone.That is the primary intention; this is the purpose of all Creation…

The beinoni will pray and Hashem will respond.  Why is it assured that he will be able, and will choose, to pray?  Because that is the entire essence of the beinoni; he has been calling out to Hashem his entire life in his internal struggle with his evil nefesh.  ..

This desperate plea of the beinoni may be considered as a form of song…a song to Hashem is greatest when it includes the struggle of the rock bottom, the lowest, the “bad” nefesh.  The crescendo of this song comes when the person realizes that he is truly a “pauper”; that despite his most valiant effort, he inherently lacks the wherewithal to escape his evil inefesh.  He then grasps that he must turn to a Higher Power….we are totally dependent on Hashem.  During the 10 days of teshuva….we call out to Him.  Imploring Him to help us help ourselves is in itself the “most desirable of all songs, “ and “there lies the purpose of all Creation..”    Song of the Beinoni HaRav Eliyahu Baumwolspiner, Rosh Hashana Day 2  Why we tremble

By attaching our nefesh, in prayer, to the Divine plan, with a teshuva from love for Hashem and awe for the design, even though we are not tzaddikim, we are returning from whatever ways we “rebelled” against Hashem.  By realizing we are paupers, that Hashem is One and that we are totally dependent upon Him, we open a way for Hashem’s light to heal the blocks formed by our sins.  How?  Because we are safe – in His Arms.  Our survival is in His Judgment and He is our Father.  We realize we have no way to survive on our own.  None whatsoever. Therefore, the self interest and dangers of the world are nullified, and we have the opportunity to do teshuva and receive heavenly light to heal our aveiras.  But we have to ask.

Wherever we feel blocks of pain, fear, anger, and more, may we understand that the strength of these blocks is our own soul trapped in something we did that was out of step with Torah and Hashem’s love and mercy.  Our avoda is to nullify our misstep and reclaim the captive, our soul, from actively enlivening the distress.  We do this through hisbodidus, by crying out to Hashem, by describing our challenges, by naming our struggles and asking for His Help.  We write down our accounting as we attempt to affect our hearts.  These sincere efforts merit Hashem’s help.  We receive insight.  Hashem leads us on the path that we wish to go.  May we all understand the struggle, that we are not free of blemish, that the only Source of healing our characteristics is to cry them out in desperation to Hashem and ask  for His Help, and that doing so is a song for which Hashem has created the world, a world with real teshuva.

It is possible to gain ground at our free will point as our reactivity comes from the unconscious, to the subconscious and then to the conscious.  While we are working on gaining consciousness however, we continue to have the blemish, the wall, the block that is our responsibility to continue to struggle with.  What does that look like?  It means that even though we know we get upset in a situation, it does not mean we won’t get upset when that same set of circumstances occurs.  It may mean that we stop our bodies from reacting.  However, to really remove the reaction may take much more personal prayer and self-knowledge. 

There is a story regarding Rabbi Chananya ben Dosa.  In his town, there was a large snake in a hole in the street and people were getting bit and poisoned.  They came to the Rav for help.  He went to the snake hole, placed his heel over the hole, and the snake bit him.  He killed the snake and said, “Snakes don’t kill, aveiros do.”   The townspeople said, “woe to the snake that meets Rabbi Chananya.”

When I have an inward reaction in one of my unrectified characteristics and it is giving me the urge to lash out or say or do something destructive, I visualize this scene – with Rabbi Chananya coming to the rescue of the town and absorbing the poison of the snake.  For me, I then feel I have discharged my emotional reaction and regulated it, and now I am free to think clearly in terms of Torah, mitzvahs and compassion how I might respond.  The truth is that when we understand how to release our own reactions, we are able to see that many times, what is happening to us is happening because the knowledge about our reactions and how to regulate ourselves constructively takes time to learn and integrate, and is a pathway that not every person finds as their mission. 

May the shofar awaken our will to take some steps closer to Hashem.

May our teshuva be accepted.  May we be judged for a year of life and prosperity and redemption.

Am I ready to crown Hashem King? Some thoughts on that…
Sources from Ki Teitze and an example using the spreadsheet of walk through questions
<ay the true spiritual nature of mankind come out

One thought on “Reflections on Teshuva, Rosh Hashana, and Parshas Nitzavim – it is up to us – time to ask

  1. Pingback: Understand the true spiritual essence of man - compassion - Nourishment for the Neshama

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