Teshuva – Repentance

In contrast to my posts on the food symbols of Rosh Hashana, which are concrete (there they are sitting on the table!), I would like to write a little bit about teshuva (repentance). When Rosh Hashana begins, we are entering what is known as Aseret Yemai Teshuva, the ten days of repentance, which start with Rosh Hashana and end with Yom Kippur.

What is teshuva? First, what it is NOT. It is not saying “I’m sorry” and then just walking away. When I was in grade school, one of my teachers taught me this:

If you have stolen a pencil, and you are once again put in a situation where you could steal a pencil but you do not, then you have done teshuva. You cannot just say "I'm sorry I stole." The key is not doing it again, given the same circumstances.

If you have studied about the laws of teshuva, I would be interested to hear examples that you have learned.

 Jameel posted this moving pre-Rosh Hashana video which includes some of this piyut (a post by Ilana-Davita).

9 thoughts on “Teshuva – Repentance

  • We have a chance to change our lives each day, if we choose to. Introspection is not only a chance for us to repent, but also to forgive.

    Pent up anger and other emotions lead to an unhealthy state of mind and physical being. To forgive is also to repent, to go within and acknowledge our hurtful feelings we demonstrate to another individual, and then forgive the person for what we feel they have done to us, is also to repent…repent for our anger and/or attitude.

  • Michelle, I’m glad you are reading this.
    Ilana-Davita, thanks for commenting on the photo.
    Lorri, I like your focus on emotions at this time. My father said something today about men not knowing how to cry, and that could be why women live longer than men. I think he was trying to relate to to this time of year. Maybe I could develop this into a post, this idea of relating crying to this time of year. I found something about crying on Yom Kippur…

  • I was taught exactly the same thing as a child. I’m not Jewish, but my faith ebraces the Old Testament equally with the New Testament, and we do not believe the laws, except the sacrificial ones, of the Old Testament were “done away with” by Christ as some choose to believe. It is so interesting to me that almost identical words were used in my teaching. And I teach the same words to my own children. I love this. A casual “I’m sorry” is not repentance.

  • Louise, thank you for your comment. I wonder how the knowledge in your faith is passed down. We learn more about how to view repentance by studying rabbis, including medieval ones like Maimonides, the Rambam (as Lion of Zion mentioned) and 20th century ones like Rav Soleveitchik. One cannot study Judaism just by looking at the biblical texts.

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