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Note To Self: Return

Thursday, 21 August, 2014 - 9:00 am

This thought was written by Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman from Chabad Intown Atlanta, GA

"The Season" is upon us. You know the season filled with dreadful hours sitting in services, replete with fire and brimstone sermons about eternal damnation? Ok, granted that's not the Jewish way, but often the High Holiday season (which essentially begins this week on Tuesday with Rosh Chodesh the start of the month of Elul, the final one of the Jewish calendar) can feel at best boring and draining and at worst a harsh or meaningless ritual.

Try this on for size.

The word for "repentance" - the buzz word for this season - in Hebrew is Teshuva. Yet the correct definition of the word is "return". Now that gives it a whole new meaning. Repentance evokes thoughts of sin, lowliness and a need to humbly beg for atonement. (If you are guilty as charged, then get on line.) On the other hand, the word return evokes something more profound.

Analogy: A king who is fed up with his daughter’s pickiness, marries her off to the next guy that walks through the door. Sure enough it turns out to be a simple peasant. She finds herself miserable in his company. Not so much on account of him, because he tries everything to make her happy, but rather on account of the environment that is so foreign to her.

Our soul, our Neshama, is a princess that is sent to marry the body, a coarse peasant. The princess is unhappy. We try to do all that we can to make her happy, (we feed her good food, try to live a materially compatible existence) yet the only thing that can really bring her happiness is a sense of home. Home is G-d or G-dliness.

During this month we have the opportunity to return home; to recognize that we need to return to self, to our own self. In doing so, we bring a deeper connection to our relationship with G-d and bring a sense of peace to our Neshama.

This year, as we enter into the High Holiday season, let us focus on returning to ourselves and our essence. A return to self is a return to G-d. Everything else (repentance and growth) stems from there.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life.

Rabbi Schusterman


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