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Trial and teshuva

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The morning was clear, the sun had just peeped over the horizon, and I found myself sitting on the sand, watching the waves as they gently lapped back and forth, the fresh breeze welcoming a new day. It was a moment of quiet respite in a world gone mad. How perfect, soothing, and embracing it was simply to bask in the sun’s rays and watch the rhythm of the sea. Yet, somewhere in the background, I could hear the street, the world, the hustle and bustle, the challenge and the pain, the confusion, and the noise.

A statement in the Gemarah (Makos 10b) came to mind: “Baderech she’adam rotze lailech ba – molochin au’to.” (Whatever path a person wishes to proceed upon, he will be lead and assisted.)

So where was I heading? What journey was I taking? Where was G-d leading me? At times, I feel that I’m sucked into the vortex of simply walking this earth, with all its challenges and difficulties. The stress and anxiety is often overwhelming, and the journey feels so painful. And there are times when I’m blessed to have a moment of respite, like now, on the beach, where the world is just so natural, where everything is where it should be, and each element, including me, is playing their part in G-d’s magnificent symphony.

My journey, like most humans, is one of vacillation – connected, then disconnected; focused, then wandering around aimlessly; purposeful, then squandering time indiscriminately. So, the path I tread is a complicated one, yet you need to realise that G-d is leading you down this path.

In a few days, we’ll stand before the Master of the Universe and request another year of life, filled with His abundant blessings. Time, as we know it, is a helix – it travels round and comes back to the same point every year. The only moving part is us! Man is called a “mehalech” – one who walks/goes. Since we are now finishing orbiting a time helix, it’s an apt time to consider what we accomplished this cycle; where we have tread; what we contributed to this world this year. Did we walk this year heavily invested in our ego, subservient to all its whims and desires, or did we walk the path of resistance and discover that which is beyond ourselves. Did we stretch and grow? Or did we stagnate and even go backwards? Did we take steps to explore new possibilities and ideas, or did we remain stubborn and stuck in our preconceived notions?

One of the main ideas of the high holidays is the concept of teshuva (repentance). There are practical steps that we need to take in order to repent – first, recognise the misdemeanour, then apologise to man and G-d and resolve not to do the same thing again. Chassidic philosophy, however, teaches a deeper level – the Hebrew word teshuva can be broken up into two words – “teshuv hay” – meaning that the process of repentance is nothing more than returning to the “hay” which is metaphoric for G-d. We all carry within us a piece of g-dliness, a soul, and ultimately, G-d leads us along the path we chose, our trials and tribulations uniquely chosen, presenting opportunities that highlight our weaknesses and difficulties, but ultimately they all are an opportunity for growth and for us to return – back to the pristine, quintessential person we truly are. We human beings despise pain, difficulty, and challenge. We’ll do anything to minimise it, douse it, or simply ignore it. But it’s in these painful experiences that growth is found. We need to learn to be at least curious and questioning about them, and better still, brave enough to confront them.

As the curtain closes on 5783, ponder what path G-d has lead you on this past year. Find a virtual spot of quietness where you can access your soul, your inner desires, and hear the calling of your true self. Know that G-d is leading you, and everything that comes your way is a gift for you to open and explore. May this year be filled with G-d’s abundant love and blessings, materially and spiritually.

Shana tova umetukah!

  • Rebbetzin Aidel Kazilsky is a radio and television host and an inspirational speaker who teaches the wisdom of Torah and applies it to contemporary times.

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