Midreshet Amit


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Teshuva from WIthin

By: Aliya Shriki and Shayna Feldman

What is Teshuva? Teshuva seems like a dreadful and arduous task that we are obligated to take upon ourselves in order to be forgiven for our sins from the year. Hashem gave us a promise: If we listen to His commandments and follow what He tells us, we will be given the land of milk and honey, the beloved Israel. Similarly, in the case of Teshuva, we are promised that if we do Teshuva, we will be rewarded with a blessed year and our name being placed in the book of life. Rosh Hashanah is intended to be a joyous time. We eat sweet foods to remind us of the promise that Hashem made, of the land of milk and honey and happiness. Honey cake, one of the numerous edible symbols we enjoy on Rosh Hashanah, is supposed to remind us of the sweetness that Teshuva will bring. But how is this obligatory repentance of Teshuva supposed to be considered “sweet”?

At Har Sinai, we made a brit, a promise, with Hashem. Hashem promised us the land of Israel and in return, we promised to follow his commandments and do his mitzvot. In Parshat Netzavim we are reminded that despite our lack of physical presence that day, the covenant made with our ancestors included their descendants as well. But, although we made this promise to be rule followers and pursuers of holiness, we often fail to follow through.

Throughout the year, we break this promise repeatedly and get further and further away from worthiness of being the chosen people. We get sucked in to this material world and as such, we fail to remember that we are different, that we were chosen and we made a promise. And just like when we break a promise that we made to our family, friends, or classmates, we need to apologize when we break a promise to Hashem. But we are not doing it for His benefit, we are doing it for our own.

The word Teshuva comes from the word “return.” When we do Teshuva, we are not trying to become someone new. We are trying to return to the person we were when we made that promise to be worthy of being Hashem’s people. We are trying to rid ourselves of the damage we have caused ourselves over the years. We are forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we made over the year and in doing so, we are offered the sweet pleasure of our sins being erased and the satisfying relief of getting to return to the holy person we can be.

In this week's Parsha, Moshe tells all of Bnei Yisroel to stand before Hashem and to listen to his commandments. Although this seems harsh, Moshe makes it clear to us that it is not such a hard task to do what Hashem says. Doing the mitzvot and doing the commandments, Moshe says, are not for Hashem’s benefit; they’re for our own. We shouldn’t follow Hashem’s words out of obligation but rather, we should do it out of desire to be close to Him. Similarly, Teshuva should not be done out of obligation. It should be done out of desire to heal and become closer to Hashem. Because when we do Teshuva and we genuinely repent in order to become a better and holier version of ourselves, that relief of letting go of our sins and our misdeeds is sweeter than any honey could be.