Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Season's Greetings

As Rosh Hashanah rapidly approaches we are seeing more inspirational presentations in various media about the meaning of this time of year. Aish HaTorah is no exception. Ellul is indeed the time where the gates of Heaven open up and are more ‘attentive’ to Teshuva. Soon we will be saying Selichos. Sephardim have already started. This is a form of increased prayer for the purpose of penance.

And then comes the Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment - Rosh Hashanah. This is the day we are judged in Heaven for all our actions during the year. So too God sets the way the coming year will play out for each and every one of us. On this solemn day we pray for a good outcome – realizing how truly mortal we are and how omnipotent God is.

Rosh Hashanah is also the beginning of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva – the ten days of penance culminating (on the tenth day) with Yom Kippur where we fast and implore God to ‘tear up’ the evil decree He may have made against us. His decrees are not sealed until the end of that day and are subject to change based on our sincere Teshuva.

That – in a very small nutshell - is what this season is about. Although these are indeed days of awe – they are also a great gift from God. He offers us the opportunity to repent from the sins we have committed hopefully without being punished for them. If Divine justice were strictly applied we would be getting our due for what we have done. That is the Midas HaDin. But God in his Infinite compassion (the Midas HaRachamim) has given us a ‘way out’.

In Bein Adam LaMakom matters we simply have to express our remorse to God, resolve never to violate Halacha again, pray for forgiveness from Him, and change our ways. In matters of Bein Adam L’Chavero - Teshuva does not begin until we seek – and receive - forgiveness from those we have hurt. And only then can we go the above route with God.

Teshuva is not easy. It involves change. And most of us have tremendous inertia when it comes to change. Most of us are comfortable with our lives just the way they are. We don't want to change. But if change is for the better then it is well worth the effort.

No one likes to hear Mussar - least of all me. But we all need it. This is a serious time of year and we should all reflect on our lives on how to improve them. We all have room for improvement.

At the same time – it is not Tisha B’Av either. It is also a Yom Tov. At the end of the process if we do our due diligence we will be forgiven our past sins. This should ultimately put us in a good mood. Rosh Hashanah is a time for renewal and hope. So don’t be sad. Be upbeat and happy. It is in that spirit I present the video above. It is from Aish HaTorah.