Two Forms of Teshuva Part Three
From an unedited transcript: A husband and a wife are in a fight, G-d forbid. It should never happen to any of us, but I’ve heard that it happens and I’ve seen a movie or two where a husband and wife get into a fight, and the husband yells and says some nasty things to his wife. He feels that he is a horrible person and he comes to his wife and he says, darling I’m sorry I was such an idiot, I was such a monster, please, you know I can’t believe I acted that way, please forgive me. That’s one way.
The other way is, the husband walks away after being a monster and he says, you know my wife is so wonderful, she’s so supportive, she’s so giving, she’s so generous, she is the last person in the world to deserve having anyone, especially her husband speak to her in such a horrible way. And the husband goes to his wife and says sweetheart, you did not deserve that. You deserved the opposite, you deserved praise and love and support, the way you give it to me all the time. You’re the last person in the world who should ever hear such horrible things, especially from someone to whom you give so much. And he asks his wife for forgiveness not because he feels that he is a shmock, excuse my language, but he feels that she deserves better. Which apology, which request for forgiveness is better? I think the second, do you agree? Okay
How do we do teshuvah on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Elul? It’s not that we’re humiliated and we say to G-d, oh, I’m terrible, you know how could I possibly act like that and how could I do this and I feel terrible about myself and this is what people, listen, they feel you know, they’re banging away at their chests and they’re crying, I’m such a terrible person, I definitely am such a horrible person and all this positive reinforcements, and they’re just tearing themselves apart which for some reason I suspect is why it doesn’t long too long for people. Or you go to a guy and you say, You’re the King of the world, You created this magnificent creation filled with light, filled with chesed, filled with love. You gave me free choice, You give me all these opportunities, You’re seeing everything I do matters to me, You’re constantly expressing Your deep love for me. You did not deserve for me to forget about You for one second. You deserve better because You are G-d, You deserve better because You are so loving. You deserve more and better because You’re always giving. You deserve better because You are who You are and You do what You do. Which is the teshuvah of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? Which do you think? There’s no humiliation in that. That’s rejoicing. That’s saying, ah, I know G-d. I’m thinking about G-d as G-d is. G-d did not deserve for me to speak lashon horah and forget about Him for one second. G-d deserves a world in which no one speaks lashon horah. G-d gave me this coffee. G-d deserves for me to make a blessing that acknowledges His the love that He created coffee. Then the coffee is ground and then it’s shipped by boat and all the people are on the boat who bring it and then the people take it from the boat and bring it to the factory and the factory where it’s ground and it’s prepared and then it’s packaged and I have to thank G-d for the packaging, for the glass, for the package, for the French Vanilla flavor and then it goes in a truck and it has to be stocked and sold etc. We are indebted to the creator of the truck and the builder of the truck and the gas and the mechanics and everything, and he takes it, He does not deserve for me to have not acknowledge that and not make a bracha the way He deserves.
That’s what Elul and Rosh Hashanah is. That’s why on Rosh Hashanah we’re so focused on G-d being the King, the Creator. He did not deserve for us to do anything wrong. He deserves better. We’re focused on Hashem, not on us. Is there any humiliation in that? None at all. It’s focused entirely on Hashem, not on us, and that’s why in incredible story in the book of Nechemia.
When they finished the construction of the second Beis Hamikdash and Ezra taught Torah to the Bnei Yisrael on Rosh Hashanah and the Bnei Yisrael were devastated. They were crying, oiy vey, we’re so bad, oiy vey, we’re doing so many things wrong and they were terrified, they were terrified. Oh my gosh, here we have a Beis Hamikdash, G-d is going to be present and we’re such horrible people, humiliated people, what are we going to do? And they literally were hiding under their beds. The same way Adam and Chava were hiding in Gan Eden, they were hiding from G-d, they were humiliated, embarrassed, terrified, petrified.
And Ezra and Nechemia say to them, what are you doing? That’s not what you should be doing. Eat, drink and be merry. Ever hear of that expression? Eat, drink and be merry, that comes from the book of Nechemia, the instructions that Ezra and Nechemia give the Jewish people about Rosh Hashanah. Eat, drink and be merry, send gifts to each other, be happy.
Why? Ki chedvas Hashem hi mo’uschem – G-d’s joy in seeing you happy is the source of all your strength. That’s the teshuvah of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chedvas Hashem – making G-d happy. How? By acknowledging the opportunity G-d has given us. He cares about everything we do, it matters to Him. He loves us, He’s involved with us. What can be more empowering than that, more wonderful? And if we can rejoice in that, G-d is happy and Ezra and Nechemia say, when you make G-d happy, hi mo’uschem – that is your strength, that’s what you should be doing when you’re doing teshuvah. I don’t think there’s any humiliation in that.