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BINA Beis Medrash

This week’s classes:

Sunday, July 21
Sunday Morning Beis Medrash
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00AM
Chaburah
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00PM

WHY DOES TESHUVA WORK?

Every day of the עשרת ימי תשובה – Ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur – chapter 130


of Tehillim is added to our prayers. This custom was instituted by the Arizal (1534 – 1572). The psalm is all about תשובה – repentance, pleading with G-d to listen to our cry and forgive our sins.


In fact, in olden times it was with this prayer, not Kol Nidrei, that they would begin the Yom Kippur service. If we take a deeper look at this prayer we will have a better understanding of what teshuva is and gain insight into the power of these special days.


There is a dispute recorded in the Zohar as to whose “Depths” King David is talking about. Rabbi Yitzchok believes that he is referring to himself, that King David (and everyone saying this psalm) is calling out to God from the depths of his soul. Rabbi Abba holds that it is referring to the “depths of G-d.” The implication then of the word “Keraticha” is to reveal, to draw down to this world i.e. that through Teshuva we call out to and reveal the highest levels of G-dliness. The commentaries explain that these two views don’t have to be at odds with each other, rather they complement each other. When we call out to G-d from the depth of our soul, that reaches G-d’s essence (“The depths of G-dliness”).


To understand this, we must first better understand what Teshuva is. How does it have the power to rectify our past wrongdoings? If it was wrong how does it then become “right”? If one injures another and then feels bad and takes on a resolution never to do it again, does that heal the injured person? Of course not! The damage is done. Why should spiritual damage that is caused through sin be any different?


To better understand sin and the damage caused through it, we must first explain what the functions of Torah and Mitzvot are. Does a Jew “need” Mitzvot to be connected to G-d? If the answer is yes, then what does it mean when the Talmud says “ אף על פי שחטא ישראל הוא – even one who sins is a Jew?”


This is in essence what the following Medrash is asking. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabo Chapter 2) asks: Who came first, the Torah or the Jewish soul? The Medrash concludes that it was the Jew, and the proof is from the Torah itself. The very fact that the Torah addresses the Jew (“speak to the people of Israel, tell the people of Israel, etc.”)implies that there is already a Jew to whom it is talking. What is the Medrash really asking? The question is definitely not who came “first” in time, as time itself is a creation. The Medrash examines a Jew’s connection to God. It is debated whether a Jew’s connection to G-d precedes Torah or must a Jew go through the Torah to connect to G-d. If there is a Jew who has never kept a mitzvah in his or her life is s/he still connected to G-d? The Medrash concludes that a Jew precedes the Torah. There is an inherent bond between Jew and G-d that can never be broken because it was never created, it just is. Just like a child’s connection to their parent does not begin with listening to the parent, it’s a part of who the child is, by very nature a child is an extension of his/her parent, a Jew, just by being, is connected to G-d. As the Kabbalists tell us, the soul is a part of G-d; G-dliness is a part of our DNA. Judaism is who we are not only what we do.


This raises the question, why are Torah and Mitzvot so vital? If we are connected to G-d regardless, why is learning Torah and observing Mitzvot the center of a Jew’s life? The answer lies in the very same Medrash. The Medrash tells us; how do we know that a Jew precedes Torah? From the Torah itself. Torah lets us know that there is a Jew who is connected to G-d even without Torah. In other words, it is true that in our very essence, we are one with G-d, but in order to be conscious of that bond, to be able to experience and live it, one needs Torah and Mitzvot. To be a Jew you don’t need Torah, but to live like one it is vital. A Jew without Torah and Mitzvot is like a human being in a coma. Every human being has intrinsic value whatever state they are in, but would one want to live


their entire life in a coma, unaware of that value? Yes, you are alive, but you are not experiencing life!


This is what Teshuva is all about. Teshuva means to return. To go back and discover your real self. To reveal the intrinsic bond that we have with G-d. When we sin we damage the conscious connection that we have with G-d and to fix that we need to dig deeper and go to the depths of our soul, ממעמקים קראתיך ה׳ . It is from


there that we cry out to G-d himself. When your child cries it moves you to your core. You don’t think about whether your child has listened to you or not, s/he is your child and that’s all that matters. So too, when we cry from the depths of our Soul, it reaches Hashem himself. From our core to His essence. As a loving father, he listens to our cry, ה׳ שמע בקולי . As Rav Soloveitchik points out, instead of saying לקולי – to my voice it says – בקולי


in my voice. When we do Teshuva, Hashem does not look at the external layer of the person, a rebel who has disobeyed Him, but rather בקולי – in the voice, to the core essence of who is crying, a beloved child that is returning


to a loving father.


Now we can continue and say: כי עמך הסליחה – forgiveness is with you. Not that G-d forbid sin has now become


okay, rather He forgives us because we have discovered the space where sin never reached, our Neshama, our מעמקים – the depths of who we are.

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