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Return, Mischievous Children    

Return, Mischievous Children

Teshuva is probably the most misconceived and misunderstood concept in all of Judaism. It's not a social movement that applies only to those from non-observant backgrounds…


The prophet cries out to us in the Name of Hashem, "Return, mischievous children!" (Jeremiah 3:14). The word he uses for "mischievous" is shovevim, the acronym of the six-week period that we are in the midst of, a most opportune time to return to Hashem.


Do you know why people don’t return to Hashem? There are two reasons:


First, In the case of many who were born into observant families, they'll say, "Why should I return to Hashem? I never left Him!" My esteemed and beloved teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush says that if a person never learned emuna, he or she was never with Hashem in the first place, no matter how religious their background might be.


The Hebrew word teshuva is usually translated as repentance, but it really means "returning". As such, Jeremiah says to all of us shuvu banim shovevim, return, mischievous children. Hashem doesn't merely want penitence; He wants us to come back to Him with all our hearts. Yet, many people view teshuva as an inferior social caste that's applicable only to those who come from non-observant families, rather than a spiritual act and mitzvah of the Torah that obligates everyone.


The second reason why people don't return to Hashem in sincere teshuva is that they simply don't know how. They think teshuva is some depressing act of self-flagellation that just brings them down. Nothing could be further from the truth.


So, with the above in mind, let's learn how to return to Hashem, in a pleasant, no-pain manner:


To do teshuva properly, with joy and not with sadness and self-persecution, a person must remember three important rules:


Rule 1 – You have an evil inclination that's part of you, like it or not. A person becomes discouraged because his evil inclination overcomes him in some way, either with a bad habit or with lust of some sort. Many observant people don't yet acknowledge that they have an evil inclination. They harbor the fantasy that they are expected to be, or capable of being totally good with no bad ever. That's simply not correct. The evil inclination is a part of a person's nature, just like any other of the body and soul components. Therefore, it's no surprise that he or she has lust, negative character traits and so forth that trip them up from time to time.


Rule 2 – Not only do you have an evil inclination, but you are incapable of overcoming it on your own! So what are you upset about? This is a law of creation, that the evil inclination is stronger than a person. Our sages say explicitly that every day, the evil inclination rises up to overcome a person, and if Hashem doesn't help, one cannot prevail on his own.


Rule 3 - Be happy with your lot in life. Be happy with who and what you are right now. Sure, we all want to improve, but we can't pop an instant tsaddik pill in a glass of water. It takes time, effort and spiritual elbow grease. Meanwhile, know that it's not your job to be perfect. Hashem loves you the way are right now, so meanwhile, you can love yourself too. Once you do, you can strive to learn the laws of Torah and pray as much as you can.


Invest an hour of daily personal prayer, where you assess yourself in a calm and composed manner and repent for anything you might have done wrong in the last 24 hours since your previous personal prayer and self-assessment session. Ask Hashem to help you overcome your evil inclination. Don't be disappointed in yourself when you repeat a wrongdoing. Simply share with Hashem what's happening in your life and turn to Him sincerely in teshuva because He is always waiting for you with open arms, no matter what you've done wrong. Never give up your desires and never stop praying – the more the better – and you will certainly avoid sin. And, if you're upset that you still commit sins, simply pray more and more and ask for Hashem's assistance – there is no better advice.


Remember, Hashem wants you to be happy. Even if you did something terrible, He doesn't want you to be down on yourself. Sadness and melancholy are worse than anything, for they sever a person from Hashem. That's why Hashem wants us to return to Him, for when we do, we'll really be happy, and that's exactly what He wants.


Remember first that transgressions scar a person’s soul and inhibit the soul’s ability to absorb Divine illumination, just as scratches on glass inhibit it translucence. Teshuva removes those scars of transgression and consequently facilitate the soul’s ability to absorb Divine illumination and consequently get closer to Hashem. In fact, the word “scar” helps us remember in an easy and practical way how to do teshuva, as follows:


S: Stop – this moment, stop whatever you’re doing that’s wrong and desire to make a change for the better;


C: Confess to Hashem what you did wrong; when a person confesses to Hashem, then the Heavenly Court can’t judge him. Hashem is merciful and forgiving, and especially compassionate to those who admit that they erred.


A: Apologize to Hashem for what you did; show Him that you realize your mistake. If you committed a transgression against your fellow human, you must apologize to him or her as well.


R: Resolve to do better in the future and ask Hashem to help you.


Bingo! The above four steps of S-C-A-R are all a person must do to completely fulfill the lofty mitzvah of teshuva. It’s really that easy! The Yetzer Hara, the arch liar who we know as the evil inclination, will do everything in his power to deter you from the path of teshuva. He’ll attack you with all kinds of lies; he’ll tell you that if you don’t grow a beard or change your appearance, you can’t do teshuva. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, you can a complete spiritual plastic surgery on yourself for free, and walk away being the most beautiful person around. Guaranteed!



* * *

We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  I have been trying to return
Dina Leah1/7/2019 3:14:22 AM
  I don't understand
Dina Leah1/7/2019 3:02:58 AM

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