The Power of Teshuvah – Day 16
In the early 1990’s, a research study of violin students from the Academy of Music in Berlin indicated that the best violin students had spent approximately 10,000 hours practicing; the good students had practiced for about 8,000 hours, and the mediocre ones about 4,000 hours. 10,000 hours equals 20 hours a week for 10 years.
Nothing of value is achieved without preparation. For us to achieve our highest hopes as Hashem seals our fate on Yom Kippur, each of us needs to actively prepare.
To succeed at teshuvah, we have to proceed as if we were preparing for a hike through rough mountain terrain. We would never tackle such a grueling trek without preparation, because we understand that the stakes are high. Likewise, those who understand what is truly at risk would never approach that day unprepared.
During Elul, R’ Itzele Peterburger donned a special garment. Sewn into it were three pockets in which R’ Itzele carried the classic mussar works: Shaarei Teshuvah, Chovos HaLevavos, and Mesillas Yesharim — his “arsenal” with which to prepare for the Day of Judgment.
What, in fact, does it mean to prepare? It means setting in place a plan as to how to advance from our present situation to our ultimate goal. It means gathering the resources we will need to complete our plan, so that we are ready to act. And last but not least, it means taking action – practicing the skills we will need to succeed in our mission. Just as the violinists’ virtuosity was perfected with their hours of practice, we too can train ourselves in the fine-tuned art of teshuvah.
For every moment we invest in preparation, we enhance the effectiveness of our effort. “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax,” Abraham Lincoln once said. How are we, as we approach the crucial days of the Yamim Noraim, supposed to “sharpen our ax”? If preparation is the key, how do we prepare?
We need a plan. The Sfas Emes wrote that, without doubt, Heaven places a special awakening within people to do teshuvah in these days, and therefore, we have the obligation to make the effort to capitalize on this gift. We do so by adopting and applying the necessary strategies that will motivate us.
By studying the following strategies you will access the keys that best enables you to begin the teshuvah process which in turn will bring you closer to Hashem:
• Strategy 1: Going the Right Way
• Strategy 2: Small Steps
• Strategy 3: Increase Yiras Shamayim
• Strategy 4: Make It Real
• Strategy 5: Damage Control
• Strategy 6: Study Mussar, Spiritual Ethics
• Strategy 7: Focus on the Negative
• Strategy 8: Accept Responsibility: Who Me
• Strategy 9: Pray
• Strategy 10: ASAP – The Future Is Now
Teshuvah is for everyone, including the righteous. Through teshuvah, a person develops his awe and love of God, gradually arriving at an awareness of even the slightest breach of His will. Each person, at his own level, can elevate himself through teshuvah.
The more we plan, prepare, and practice, the more beautiful our symphony of teshuvah will sound as we seek to merit life and blessing. By applying any or all of these strategies, we can fulfill the blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, “Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near, our King, to Your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.”
Points to Ponder:
- As in any human endeavor, success in teshuvah is a function of planning, preparation, and practice.
- We avail ourselves of time-tested strategies that prepare us for the judgment of Yom Kippur.