Celebrating Teshuva – What it means to get back to our better selves.
As many of you know, I spent this past week in Tel Aviv celebrating my niece’s Bat Mitzvah and of course, Rosh Hashanah with all of the extended family. While the simcha was a delight unto itself, being in Israel at this particular point in time was also deeply meaningful and spiritually awakening.
To be clear, my Israel is Tel Aviv. Le’lo hafsaka (non stop). I love the city for its heartbeat, its humor, its hubris, and it’s heartache. I love the celebration of culture, of ideas, of architecture, of misfits. I love that everyone I encountered wanted to speak politics and forget politics, and just wanted things to be “normal” again. Whatever that means for whatever you believe.
The month of Elul is ritually designed for Jews to get a little uncomfortable with themselves. We begin this process of a cheshbon nefesh – an accounting of the soul – in order to really reflect on the things that are important to us, and to rethink behaviors that no longer serve us or the people around us. The New Year begins and we are immediately thrust into the Aseret Yamei Teshuva – the Ten Days of Repentance – a slated time that gives us another opportunity to really think about where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we are going in the year to come.
In the almost nine months that Israelis have taken to the streets in protest of the newly elected government and the judicial reforms taking place, we have seen a mobilization of the Jewish people towards a behavioral reset like never before in history. An accounting of our national soul, of our laws, of who we are as a people and a nation, and who we wish to be in this wider world. It’s been another specifically carved time for us to reflect, to rethink, to revise, and to react.
Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael – we are all enacting Teshuva right now.
On Friday, our Middle Schoolers will run our annual Teshuva Carnival for our Lower School students. They’ve spent the last few weeks studying different elements of Tefillah, Tzedakah, and Teshuva, to, as Unataneh Tokef suggests, mitigate the harshness of the decree, to change our futures for the better. No matter where we are in the world, from Tel Aviv to Los Gatos, from Kaplan to Oka, we all have the opportunity to reflect on where we have been, what we are doing, and where we are going.
Wishing you and your families a tzom kal (an easy fast) and g’mar chatima tova – may you be written and sealed in the book of life.
Shabbat shalom, gut yontev, g’mar tov,