4.02 UNDERSTANDING TESHUVA AND SLICHOS: THE POWER OF CHESBON…WHAT DO I DO TESHUVA ON?
We are now beginning the final week of the month of Elul. According to the Rosh HaYeshiva’s plan (see sheet #1), now is the time to intensify the process of Cheshbon (spiritual accounting) and come up with a plan for change. The first week we woke ourselves up to the month of Elul. The second week we worked on our relationship to G-d. The third we worked on Teshuva and Selichos. Now we are ready to get down to the serious business of Cheshbon which includes evaluating and planning for the future.
THE POWERFUL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LAST WEEK OF THE YEAR
It is important to keep in mind that this is the last week of the year. This has very deep spiritual significance:
The Sages have written that just as we say “hakol holeich achar hachitum,” (everything is determined by the end), so, too, we can make amends for all the days of the year by rectifying the days of the last week of the year. How one conducts himself on the last Sunday of the year will be considered as how he conducted himself on all Sundays throughout the year. Similarly for Monday, Tuesday, etc. Since Shabbos is the holiest day, it is especially appropriate to strive to conduct oneself in a more perfect manner of Shabbos observance in an atmosphere of Shabbos sanctity. This will credit all the Shabboses of the year as having been conducted in like fashion. (The Shelah HaKodesh quoted in The New Rosh HaShanah Anthology).
When someone does teshuva at the end of a major time period, the whole period prior to the teshuva becomes sanctified. The most well known example of this is someone who does teshuva on his death bed. This important piece of information should spur us on to be particularly careful this last week of the year.
SO WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
When one begins to look at the task of teshuva, it can be overwhelming. We have done so many misdeeds over the past year that it is hard to know where to begin. Do we take out a list of the Taryag Mitzvos and ask, “what were all my transgressions on mitzvah number 1, and number 2 etc.?” That doesn’t seem to be the direction to go in for it would be very time consuming and very draining.
The answer is much simpler. We must come up with a plan for spiritual growth that, in the future, will lead us to abandoning our transgressions. If we could find the central roots to our transgressions and attack those root problems, eventually, most of our transgressions would fall away. So if one says to G-d in truth, “G-d, here is my plan that I think will allow me to wipe out my transgressions in the shortest amount of time possible,” then G-G-d will accept him back totally
The goal of the teshuva process at this time of the year is to figure out the root of what is holding a person back and attack it in the most powerful way.(Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz in his tapes on Elul and the High Holy Days)
WHY WOULD G-D FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO HASN’T TOTALLY STOPPED DOING ALL HIS TRANSGRESSIONS YET?
Imagine a new child taking his first steps in front of his proud parents. He gets on his feet and takes a few steps and falls flat on his face. The parents clap with joy and happiness. But if you analyze the situation, shouldn’t the parents be upset? After all, the child fell down. The answer is obvious. A parent doesn’t judge a child based on whether or not he fell, but rather on whether he took the steps necessary to go in the right direction.
So, too, with the Al-mighty. If we return to the Al-mighty with all our heart and all our soul, but we are too weak to commit to instant change, the Al-mighty won’t judge us for that. The thing that concerns Him is if we are moving in the right direction with the proper effort that is demanded of us.
So G-d looks at us and sees: Is he trying? Is he committed to change? Since the Almighty can see through time, He can look to see if you really meant it when you said that you would stop doing the transgression in the future.
The goal of the teshuva process is to make a plan that will liberate us from the things that hold us back. This requires the ability to evaluate where we are at and where we need to go. As we have mentioned the word for this in hebrew is called Cheshbon which means an accounting.”
HOW CAN I SINCERELY MAKE A PLAN TO CHANGE EVERY ASPECT OF MY LIFE. WHEN IT INVOLVES THOUSANDS OF UNKNOWN VARIABLES?
It is obvious that G-d does not command you to have every aspect worked out. You may not have the ability or the understanding to do such a thing. What you can do is to plan the directions that you think will best move you closer to G-d.
For example, take the five best ideas that you think will lead you to successfully and implement them. This is a worthwhile effort in Hashem’s eyes. An individual doesn’t need to know all the answers to everything right now. The key is the commitment to change.
A good analogy is the American Space Program of the 1950’s. The Americans had never gone to the moon before. They at that time didn’t even know how to send a man into outer space. What they had was the resolve to take the next step based on all the available information at the time. And with that resolve they put a man on the moon.
So, too, with your personality. Make a general plan of how you think you will succeed. Resolve to commit to success. Take your next step at the soonest possible time and G-d will consider that Teshuva.
THE KEY IS THE DEDICATION TO THE CHANGE
“There is nothing that stands in the way of free will,” (Alel Shor, perek 25) …
“In the way that a man wants to go he will be led,” (Makos, lOB) …
The secret of free will is wanting (chefetz) which is the highest thing in all creation. . . It is incumbent upon us to know this powerful truth: What a man really wants, this is what he will achieve in life, and the opposite is true: What a man achieves in his life, this is a revelation of what was his will in the beginning. (AIei Shor, perek 25)
All over the Torah there is statement after statement telling us one thing: Strengthen your will in a certain area and you will achieve success in that area. There is nothing that can stand in the way of someone with a true desire.
This is the secret of teshuva for the High Holy Days: Commit to a full return to G-d from the bottom of your heart and that will eventually wipe out all your sins. Dedicate yourself to a plan to wipe out transgression and you will have done complete teshuva during this most important time period.