These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

My dvar Torah from the Shabbaton

Posted on September 15, 2012 by Andrea Wiese

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Since we’re in the season of teshuva, I wanted to share some a very wise and inspiring Rabbi (Michael Hattin) once wrote, “teshuva is…a gradual awakening of the mind and soul to God’s call, a measured but steady process of self-evaluation and reflection, a plodding and sometimes faltering series of steps that includes dead ends, blind alleys, and even devastating retreats, but once unleashed, the momentum of the process cannot be stayed.”

Now I can definitely say that it is gradual and steady process…but before I came to Pardes I had no idea what teshuva was, I had never even heard the word. But I did want to love G-d. All I knew how to do was try to be a better person. (because surely G-d would at least want this.) I wanted to be a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better citizen, be better to the environment, have a healthier lifestyle. SoI started reflecting, and thinking, and doing self-evaluations. Apologizing to people who I had hurt and making amends, and I started being kinder and more patient.

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe is talking to bnei Israel right before they are going to enter the land. And telling them to keep the mitzvot, and when you do them, G-d will do good things for you. But Moshe doesn’t just say, “when you do the mitzvot” he also says,

כִּי תָשׁוּב אֶל יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ:
when you return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.

What does “return” mean? It has the same shoresh as teshuva. Could it be the same teshuva that Michael described about the process of self-evaluation and reflection? I would like to suggest that it is because Moshe continues:

כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא:
For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.

לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה
It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”

וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲבָר לָנוּ אֶל עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה
Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”

כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ
Rather this thing is very close to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.

Teshuva is really something that is obtainable to everyone, even to people who may not know what teshuva is. Everyone has the ability to reflect, pursue G-d, enter a process of improvement and awakening, even if it does involve roadblocks and hardship along the way. But honestly, isn’t anything worth obtaining, difficult?

I have a challenge that may help you grow and reflect and start this process if you haven’t. There is a website called 10 Questions,
that for every day between the chaggim, they will send you a question. And then, in one year, they will send you what you answered and you can reflect upon your growth over the past year. And considering that you are just starting out on your year at Pardes and we all have a year of learning and growth ahead of us. I think it’s an amazing way for us to reflect and concretely see our growth.

I hope, regardless of whether you do the 10 Questions or not. And whether you see teshuva as this intense process; you hear Moshe’s words that this is close to you and it is possible. I want to give everyone a bracha, me too, why not, that in the upcoming days, we take time to reflect upon who we are, right now, today, at this point. Because only from this point, can we move forward and become closer to G-d.