On Monday evening, we will be entering the new Jewish year of 5782. Part of the genius of Judaism is its down to earth nature, and pragmatic approach to life. Acknowledging that human beings are not perfect, that we will make mistakes in our lives, our tradition offers a way of setting us back on the right path. That is the concept of t’shuvah, and it lies at the heart of our High Holy Day season. Normally translated as ‘repentance’, the word t’shuvah comes from the root shuv, which means ‘to turn’ – therefore a turning, returning to God.
You could say that there are five stages of t’shuvah, five ‘Rs’ of repentance: Recognition, Remorse, Rejection, Restitution and Resolution.
Recognition: recognise that we have done something wrong, acknowledge and accept responsibility through confession and the following four ‘R’ stages.
Remorse: feel regret because of our actions.
Rejection: reject the action for which we need to seek t’shuvah.
Restitution: seek forgiveness and, where possible, make restitution.
Resolution: resolve not to repeat our misdeed. True repentance for a wrongdoing means that we do not repeat it when the opportunity arises. The Torah teaches us that we can undo the past by what we do today. We can undo the past by not repeating our mistakes. The gates of repentance are always open.
I love this season. It gives us an opportunity to stop for a moment, to take stock, to recalibrate, to clear the books, to make peace with ourselves and with others, to review the past year and go forward into the next one with a fresh perspective and renewed energy – to make t’shuvah, a turning towards the good in us, a turning towards God. Hashiveinu Adonai eilekha v’nashuvah, ‘Turn us back to you, O God and we shall return’.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Shanah Tovah u’M’tukah – a good, sweet, safe, healthy and peaceful New Year.
Rabbi Rachel Benjamin