The Power of Teshuvah – Day 1
One Erev Rosh Hashanah, Rav Dessler shared with his students a lasting lesson he had learned as a child. His father, in an effort to help him recognize the actual impact of the judgment of the Yamim Noraim, told him to think about all the disappointments, anguish, setbacks, and difficulties of the year just ended. “These were the direct result of last Rosh Hashanah’s decree,” Rav Dessler’s father explained. “And we are about to be judged again on Rosh Hashanah with the power to prevent them from happening.”
Rav Dessler then concluded. “My father said to me, ‘You are young. Tuck away this inspiration into your heart. There will come a time when you will be able to actually affect the verdict of the Yamim Noraim.’”
Throughout the year Hashem stands ready to accept the teshuvah of those who repent with a full heart to ensure a good judgment. For those of us who have not yet availed ourselves of this opportunity, the ten golden days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are especially propitious for that purpose as the prophet Yeshayah states, “Dirshu Hashem behimatz’o kera’uhu b’heyoso karov, Seek God when He can be found, call upon Him when He is near.” His presence is so near as to be almost palpable.
To fully prepare, we have been granted the entire month of Elul. It is the ideal time when the efforts we expend in self-examination and self-improvement bring us the greatest return. It is the time for maximizing the opportunity to prepare to do teshuvah, to turn the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur into one for life, happiness, and blessings.
“Zachreinu l’chaim Melech chafeitz bachaim, v’chasveinu b’sefer hachaim l’maancha Elokim Chaim, Remember us for life, O King Who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life — for Your sake, O Living God.” These words, recited from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, are not just a request for a renewed lease on life itself; they are all-encompassing. Our prayer for “life” entails good health, a respectable livelihood, increased spirituality, marriage, children, peace in the world, freedom. Each and every gift that illuminates our lives and strengthens our connection to the spiritual Source of all life are included in “Zachreinu l’chaim,” our request for life.
When special-operations forces undertake a life-or-death mission, they go through arduous, unrelenting preparations. Attention to detail is imperative. They rehearse every foreseeable possibility to ensure that they achieve their mission and come out alive.
For us, approaching the Yamim Noraim is no less exacting a mission. The Torah teaches that the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a precious commodity; each can help change our lives for the better as Hashem lovingly awaits our teshuvah. Returning to God on our own accord, out of sincere regret for our departures from His service, and forsaking the sins of the past, ensures that our teshuvah will be accepted and our past sins forgiven.
If we take advantage of the opportunity, relishing the chance we are given to merit a year of happiness and success, we too will have availed ourselves of the power of teshuvah, thereby ensuring a year of success.
Points to Ponder:
- The 40 days of Elul through Yom Kippur are especially designated by Hashem as a time when teshuvah is most accessible and accepted.
- Our fates for the coming year, in all aspects of life, are determined on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.
- Applying our efforts to sincere teshuvah during these days is a fateful mission, and an opportunity that no one can afford to ignore.