Thursday, September 24, 2009
Shuvah, Hashem, v'Hinacheim
During the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, it is the job of every Jew to spent much time learning, praying, and meditating to bring themselves to a place of repentance and contrition for the wrongdoings, so that they might put themselves on a more correct path. However, it is a central principle in Judaism that since all mitzvos (commandments) are true because they are extensions of the Truth (G-d), then G-d also keeps all of the mitzvos. The same, then, applies to teshuvah (repentance).
It is a somewhat strange thing to think that G-d repents, but the Torah itself cites examples of G-d doing repentence. In Shemos (Exodus) 32:14, the Torah says, "V'yinacheim Hashem, al hara'ah asher diber laasos l'amo" ("And G-d repented for the evil which He said He would do to his people"). The same is found in Tehillim (Psalms) 90:13, where we read "Shuvah Hashem...v'hinacheim" ("Return, O G-d...and repent").
While it is presented in the Torah that G-d does teshuvah, there is also the principle that G-d does not change. However, when looking at the Torah, our lives, and the world, we seem to have countless instances when G-d has changed, given a new decree, or decided against continuing punishment. The truth is, though, that it is not G-d who has changed, but us. Each step a person takes in the world of spirituality brings them to a brand new madreiga (level), which has its own set of opportunities, blessings, and availabilities. When we experience hardships, or see ourselves moving toward impending calamity, and work to elevate ourselves spiritually to correct our path (i.e. repent), our new level opens up brand new vessels to receive a completely different aspect of G-d's kindness, which was not available to us on the previous level.
When we do true teshuvah, and move as a people beyond a previous state, we not only reach a new level, but the previous misdeeds are transformed into good deeds, as they are now seen in the light of being instrumental in our current elevation. This is why it is extremely important for the Jewish people to have a strong connection with and follow the righteous people within each generation, since there exists the rule, "Tzadik gozer, Hakadosh Baruch Hu mekayem" ("A righteous person decrees, G-d enacts"). It isn't that a tzadik (righteous person) forces G-d to act in a certain way, but the minhagim, chidushim (insights), and other gazeiros (decrees) that the tzadik gives to his followers open up endlessly exapnding vessels, through which G-d can impart unimaginable goodness guaranteed by our new level.
So, how is it that G-d does repentence? The previously quoted verse in Tehillim is followed by verse 14, which says, "Sabeinu vaboker chasdecha," ("Satisfy us in the morning with Your mercy"). That is to say, after we have done our teshuvah, after we have implemented the directives of our tzadikim, after we have seen ourselves to a new spiritual level, satisfy us with the realization that You (G-d), too, have responded by revealing the innate goodness and holiness found deep within our previous punishments, and are refreshing us with as much revealed goodness now as hidden goodness in the past.