Day Two: Back to the Future
The Hebrew word תשובה -Teshuvah is usually translated as "repentance." It actually comes from the root ש.ו.ב, which means "return." Since the Hebrew word for "sin" (chet) means, "to go astray", Teshuvah can be understood as, "to return to the right path." Teshuvah can be done at any time, and during these ten days, we pay special attention to the work of finding our way back to righteousness.
The rabbi and teacher, Maimonides (12th century) teaches us that there are three stages to Teshuvah: Confession, regret and a promise not to repeat the misdeed. Maimonides says, that you've done complete Teshuvah if you find yourself with the opportunity to commit the same sin again yet but don't do so.
Today is all about going back to the future! Did you know that you can change the future by going back to the past and learning from your mistakes?
But not all sins are created equal. In Jewish thought there are two categories of sin:
1. Sins against God (like breaking Shabbat and not keeping kosher)
2. Sins against other people (like stealing and lying)
According to Jewish tradition, only sins against God can be atoned for through confession, regret and promising not to repeat the action. For the sins we commit against other people, we have to make it right with the person we harmed and we have to receive forgiveness from them.
Now here's something pretty radical: A sin may just become the means for creative betterment; a transgression may be transformed into a good deed, a black mark into a brilliant jewel. Through the gift of repentance, each individual can rewrite the events of his or her life, transforming mistakes made in the past into into virtues for the future.
The Talmud [Yoma 86b] cites Resh Lakish, himself a repentant armed robber, as saying that “when true repentance takes place all transgressions are turned into merits,” and Rabbi Abbahu [Berakhot 34b], who taught that “where the penitent stands is higher than that of the completely righteous individual.” Returning to the righteousness we once knew is, not a move backward but a leap forward. Repentance is the Jewish embodiment of "Back to the Future."
If you've never seen "Back to the Future" it's worth the time. But today, we're going to work on actually going back to the future - transforming our mistakes from the past to better our future - through Teshuvah.
What Do I Do?
Let's follow Rambam's three step process. Start by identifying one way in which you've missed the mark and own it. If you hurt another person - speak to that person. Let them know that you recognize the harm you caused. If you missed the mark in your spiritual life - open up to God. Confess the mistake you made.
Now, take a moment and allow yourself to feel. You may find it painful to acknowledge a pain that you have caused or an opportunity you have let pass by. That pain is okay. It's part of the process. Finally, make a plan. When you find yourself facing a similar situation, how will you go "back to the future" transforming this past mistake into a promise for the future?