The word teshuvah means repentance, but it comes from the same Hebrew root that means “to turn.” Repentance is an act of turning away from harmful actions or habits and turning back toward a path of righteousness and kindness. During the month of Elul, we are to reflect on our words, actions, habits and thoughts of the past year. When were we acting in accordance with the people we believe we should be? When did we miss the mark? Tradition tells us that God is waiting for us to embark on the path of teshuvah at every moment. Now is the time for us to begin.
From our Sources
1.) A King’s son was at a distance of a hundred days’ journey from his father’s home. His friends said to him: “Return to your father.” He said to them, “I am unable.” Whereupon his father sent word to him and said: “Go as far as you are able, and I shall come the rest of the way to you.”
-Based on a parable by the Baal Shem Tov
2.) Rabbi Eliezar said to his students, “Repent one day before you die.” His disciples said, “Who knows when we will die?” “All the more reason to do so,” he replied. Let us repent today, lets we die the day after. The result will be that all our lives will be spent in repentance.
-Avot de Rabbi Natan 15 (8th-10th century), translation by Borowitz & Schwartz, The Jewish Moral Virtues
3.) Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Przysucha once asked his dischiples: In this day and age, when there are no prophets, how can we tell when a sin we have committed has been pardoned?” They gave him various answers, none of which he found acceptable. “We can only tell,” he said, “by the fact that we no longer commit the sin.”
-Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, Book 2
From what are you seeking to turn this year?
Toward what are you seeking to turn?
For what would you ask forgiveness if you knew you would die tomorrow?
How will you begin this process of turning? How will you know if you have been successful?