TESHUVA: The Movie in My Mind
One Day of Teshuva for A Year of Aveiras
The lights dim, there is no music, there is no sound. I stand as I watch the movie in front of me.... the movie in my mind. The sun rises and the day is new. The morning light comes shining through the colored glass windows. The cast is numerous. There are so many people standing around me, encircling me as if I am held captive by a tribe of natives in the jungle. I stand in the center and slowly turn- looking at them, one by one. Some are in the background that appear as a blur. But mostly, all I can see are the faces of those closest to me, close to my heart... the ones I love. At first glance, I see their precious smile. But, as I look closer, I catch a glimpse of hurt in their eyes. All I can think of is... what I did. Are they remembering those words that slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them? Did the advice of my heart turn to criticism- coming through in harsh words of judgment- ending up crushing their spirit? I can't remember if I told them know how much I love them. I think I did, but I'm not really sure. I know I was busy and may have put them aside. Maybe I was too consumed with myself. Was I thinking only of "me" when I should have been thinking of them? As I look back, it all looks so different from here.
Suddenly, a cyclonic wind comes out of nowhere. My vision is blurred from the sand and dirt of the blowing wind. As I gain clarity, I can see the letters of the alef beis flying wildly through the air. My arms are flailing like the wings of a baby bird taking its first flight as I try to grab them. The strangest feeling comes over me. It's as if I can feel the letters coming from inside of me. The alef beis- all the letters- the spiritual molecules of my soul.
Then, it came to me... I know what's happening! I realized what caused this! I sinned with the words that came from my tongue! I spoke lashon hara. I sinned using those holy letters. All the letters are escaping, the very holiness of my Jewish soul. Then, it begins... I hear the steady beating sound of a drum. Then I realize, it's the sound of my own fist beating my chest- slow and solid- I hear the percussion of the rhythm- Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu, Dibarnu Dofi....
With each beat comes a letter of the alef beis...
א- Ashamnu- I know that I have sinned, I now recognize my sin;
ב- Bagadnu- I have betrayed by being ungrateful. I didn't repay The One who has given me so much;
ג- Gazalnu- I have stolen something that cannot be touched with the hand but only felt with the heart;
ד- Dibarnu Dofi- I have misused the precious gift of speech that was given to me for Torah and mitzvot.
Each letter- all of them, from א to ת- one by one, I am able to grasp them as they fly by; I have caused perversion, wickedness, extortion, false accusations, evil counsel, deceit, scorn, rebellion, provoked and I turned away. I have been perverse, deliberate and unprovoked, persecuted and been obstinate, wicked and corrupt. I have strayed from my holy path by letting the yetzer hara take me away from it. Saddest of all- I have misused the blessing of free will- the opportunity to be close to Hashem. How could I, when I had the chance to be close, and yet I chose to move away in the other direction?
I struggle to grasp each letter as it circles overhead. The thoughts of these sins can overwhelm me. I must navigate my way through so that I can stay on the holy path. I must keep my eyes up while my head is bowed down.
My heart is pounding in parallel beats to the sounds on my chest- the metronome of my heart- I close my eyes and listen. In an instant, four animals appear- a leopard, an eagle, a deer and a lion. They appear to tell me something, there is a message in their presence. They are the symbols of how I should be.
I carefully examine the traits of each one...
Bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, strong as a lion.
Bold as a leopard-
I must move myself forward with the boldness of a leopard; to have the will, the desire, motivation and excitement to allow me to take the leap.
Light as an eagle-
Large, powerful, heavy and broad winged it flies through the air -light as a feather, carrying its heavy load as if it is weightless.
Swift as a deer-
With its lithe, compact body and long, powerful legs it is able to swiftly jump over and through the most rugged terrain.
STRONG AS A LION-
The strongest of all species, the ruler of the animal kingdom, symbol of the Holy City. I know there is a lion in me.
Thoughts of the animals get me through my sins; keeping me safe, far away from my evil inclination, focused and grounded as I continue to travel straight on the directed path.
The winds have subsided. A calm comes over me.
Slowly, I can feel myself coming together again. With each pound on my chest, I can feel the letters return to their home, right where they belong inside my soul. All the atoms and molecules coming together- making me whole and holy again.
In the background, I hear a new sound, a gentle chant. Listening closer, I can make out the words.....
she'ha-kol niheye bid voro. The sounds are soothing and bring me peace. Again, I hear it...
she-ha-kol niheye bid voro-Everything that comes into the world is from the word of HaShem.
As long as I keep chanting these holy words, I know my sins will be forgiven. If I repeat these words every time I eat or drink, I know I will be able to free myself. I know HaShem wants me to come closer- I know He is there for me- with His endless kindness, compassion and mercy. If I know everything is from Him and remind myself of that daily-then, dovek (cleaving) I will be.
The day is drawing to a close. The afternoon light has changed direction. The colored glass from above is shining down, lighting the ground below. Standing tall and straight, empty of food and physical distractions, feeling like an angel- I look up and can feel the waters from Shemayim coming down washing over me.... HaShem is putting me in His mikveh. Even if I committed aveiras, I know HaShem will forgive me, rectify me and purify me now on this Holiest of Days. HASHEM IS MY MIKVEH!
The sun is setting. Night draws near.
HASHEM, HASHEM- Compassionate and Gracious,
Slow to Anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth,
Preserver of kindness for thousands,
Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin and error...
THE ONE WHO CLEANSES.
לשנה הבאה בירןשלימ
Next year in Jerusalem!
May we all be cleansed in HaShem's mikveh with blessings for the new year!
May we be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!
Wishing you a meaningful, easy fast.
* This was based on a class given by Rabbi Zvi Miller for the Stepping Stones Elul Course.
The four animals are from Pirkei Avos 5:23.
The bracha of she-ha-kol was taken from the teachings of Rav Moshe Feinstein.
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