Elul 5777 – To Uplift The Past

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We are now a well into the month of Elul, the time on the Jewish calendar associated with readying ourselves for the Yamim Noraim. We are to have taken these weeks preceding the High Holidays as a time for soul-searching and reflection. Although we are not excused from doing so throughout the year, the teshuvah process is kicked into high gear when the month of Elul arrives, much like the time preceding April 15th for those preparing their taxes. The “deadline” so to speak is fast approaching.

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, in his commentary on Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook’s Oros HaTeshuvah, beautifully expounds on ideas pertaining to teshuvah which I found significantly meaningful. In relation to a comment by Rav Kook in chapter four of Oros HaTeshuvah. Rav Kook writes there that throughout the teshuvah process, there will be things that remove one from being close to God. To the baal teshuvah, one who is engaged in teshuvah, there will be great pain in recalling these events. Yet, Rav Kook maintains it will be accompanied by a calmness that will overcome them in their effort to mend their ways. Rabbi Weinberger comments here that a baal teshuvah must not destroy their past, but uplift it.

In the process of our lives, we live in moments. Some moments make us proud of who we are and what we’ve accomplished. Conversely, some moments render us dejected, forcing us to wallow in our own sadness until, through our own actions or the actions of others, we can shake our morose state of being. Each individual has moments like this in their life. No two individuals have the same ones. The positive moments that evoke pride and happiness serve as the benchmark for what we hope to achieve. The negative moments that make us cringe uncomfortably serve as the catalyst for our growth. Many times, we seek to eradicate any memory of such shortcomings. As Rabbi Weinberger says, we must uplift the past. We must take that zeal, that alacrity exhibited as we ran to perform the actions of our lowest points and employ it in our new endeavors to better ourselves. Reminiscent of the hadran prayer recited when one makes a siyum, we must be among those who run toward Olam Haba. And in seeking to do teshuvah for moments past when we ran the other direction, we must muster up the ability to take that excitement and energy exuded then and propel us forward into repentance.



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