Monday, September 28, 2009

The Joy of Teshuva

Tonight is Yom Kippur. The central theme of the day is Teshuva - repentance. On Rosh HaShanna we are judged and our year is ‘set’ by God - who will live and who will die.

During the ten days of awe starting with Rosh Hashanna and ending with Yom Kippur we beseech God to change any bad decrees that may result from our misguided ways and our incomplete repentance.

We are told that Teshuva Tefilah and Tzedaka - repentance, prayer, and charity - will change the ‘evil decree’ One of the primary components of Teshuva is Vidui – confessing our sins before God and then reciting the thirteen merciful attributes of God.

The confession is called Vidui - the famous ‘Ashamnu Bagadnu…’ – It is a list of specific sins we are as a group guilty of and that we recite in group confession. But in reciting them we do not do so in a sorrowful tone. We do them in pleasant, somber, almost sing-song tone. There is a near universal melody that goes along with it – at least in Ashkanazic communities.

The Chasam Sofer tells us (based on the Rambam in Hilchos Teshauva) that there is a reason we confess in a more joyful tone. It is because Vidui is a distinct Mitzvah and Mitzvos should be done in a manner of Simcha or joy. We therefore say it in pleasant tones in honor of the Mitzvah.

Additionally if the Teshuva is done out of a sense of love of God - our iniquities will turn into merits – as the Gemarah in Yuma (86b) tells us. We therefore do penance in Simcha.

I just wanted to wish a G'mar Chasima Tova to all of my readers. May this fast day be a meaningful one for all of us. And the fast itself be an easy one.