Teshuva: Trapeze Work
Most of us function in our most important relationships with the awareness, at some level of our consciousness, that although we might make mistakes, we will be forgiven by the other party. Children, as they are “stealing cookies from the cookie jar”, know that they might get caught, suffer some kind of consequence, and be forgiven for their misbehavior. Spouses might say or do something hurtful to each other, while, at the back of their minds, they count on the forgiveness that will allow them back in each other’s good favors.
We, as God’s children, often engage in behaviors that are inconsistent with God’s Will, with the thought deep down in our hearts, that no matter what, ultimately He will forgive us.
We are not referring here to voicing this clearly, as in Masechet Yoma 85b: “One who says, ‘I will sin, then repent; I will sin then repent’ he will be given no opportunity to repent”. Rather, we are speaking of the tacit understanding that, as we go about life and make certain choices, we do so with the sense that we will always be welcomed back under God’s wings.
The Mabit (Beit Elokim, Shaar Teshuva 1) interprets the words “Ufros aleinu succat shelomecha”, “And spread over us the shelter of Your peace” as a reference to the safety net of Teshuva.
The question is, how do we use this safety net?
One of the signs of a child maturing in his relationship with his parents, is when he is careful not to abuse the “safety net” of automatic forgiveness. He realizes that although his parents love him and accept him with his flaws, it still damages their relationship when he acts towards them in a way which will necessitate being pardoned.
When we realize that we must not take advantage of the convenience of our safety net with God by free-falling one too many times, not because it won’t work, but because we are aware of how it harms our relationship with Him, we are developing our Yirat Hashem, our Awe of God.
In the prayer of Hashkiveinu, the words that follow “and spread over us the shelter of Your peace” are “v’takeneinu b’eitzah tova”, “and make us fix with good counsel”. Of course it is important for us to see Teshuva as the gift of our safety net. But only as the tool which allows us to do our intricate trapeze work of “tikkun”, of fullfilling our mission and fix the world. Only as the security device which helps us let go of our self-imposed limitations, and express our creativity as we leap from one level to the next. Then, the safety net of Teshuva does not serve the purpose of breaking our fall, it becomes the trampoline from which we spring-board to even greater heights.