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a powerful act of teshuvah

02/18/2021 10:28:43 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Teshuvah is a word that most people probably don’t hear much about this time of year. The word is generally translated as “repentance”, and focuses primarily on the season of repentance that begins prior to Rosh Hashanah and concludes with Yom Kippur. During this period of time, when we are outside of the synagogue and/or prayer services, we try to engage with those that we have wronged during the past year, ask forgiveness for any and all ways that we may have wronged the individual, and hope that our sincerity is accepted by the person that we wronged. We spend most of our time in synagogue on Yom Kippur entreating God to accept our teshuvah.

The interesting thing about the word teshuvah is that its’ root connotes a turning, or perhaps a returning. Anyone who has strayed from the right path can appreciate the essence of teshuvah. If we have lost our way, we appeal to God to accept our teshuvah and assist us in making a mid-course correction to return to the proper path. When done with sincerity and an open heart, it can be a powerful moment for both the penitent and the recipient. I witnessed a powerful act of teshuvah last evening that deeply moved me.

The name of the person is not important, but for those who viewed the panel discussion that I participated in last evening, you will understand. A gentleman apologized publicly for words and deeds that may have offended or insulted the Jewish community. As I sat there and listened, the words came across to me as sincere and from the heart, and I publicly commended the speaker and accepted the teshuvah.

Perhaps because it was so unexpected, yet coming after much being said earlier in the day about this person, that I did not know how the conversation would flow. What all of us who viewed this event witnessed was a model of how teshuvah works, what an uplifting and cleansing moment for the penitent, what a joyous moment for a recipient like me to be the receiver of sincere words.

All human beings continue to evolve throughout their lifetimes. I am not the same person that I was several decades ago. My views have evolved, as I learn more, experience more, and hear the stories of many people that impact me deeply. To me, that is what it means to be human, foibles and all. Over the years, people have offered words of teshuvah during the Ten Days of Penitence, and I have appreciated their sincerity. But this was different. This was a human being open to learning more, to finding meaningful communal partners to work with to jointly address the needs of society.

There have been many meaningful events in my life, especially a great many after 10.27. This public teshuvah was one that I will remember, and I will use this opportunity to continue to build bridges in my community, as here is a willing partner ready to evolve and learn. As I have mentioned in prior writings, all of us are on a journey called life. My role as Rabbi is to be the tour guide to all who will let me do so, helping you through the journey in whatever way that I can. I’m hopeful that I have found a new person to join me on my journey.    

Sun, February 28 2021 16 Adar 5781