Teshuva: Spiritual Return, Repentance and Atonement
Making apologies and asking for forgiveness is at the core of Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. My request for a pardon must come with amends on my part. By speaking it aloud and making a commitment to change; the act holds the power to transform me, to restore a relationship, to move forward rather than being stuck in the past.
In most cases I have resentment toward the person I am making amends to because of some transgression, real or unreal, that I have never admitted my part in. It is incumbent on my peace of mind to let go of that resentment, take responsibility for my actions and overtly apologize with a plan of action to keep me from repeating it.
There is also the element of “looking in the mirror” and not liking the reflection. It has been my experience that some of my resentments or transgressions against others are a result of seeing something in them that I don’t like about myself. This realization, although difficult to admit, goes a long way toward enhancing my self-awareness and helping me find peace.
The act of honestly making an amends has to be more than just saying, “I’m sorry.” We must live our amends. It is the last of three steps to repentance in traditional Jewish sources. Maimonides, the 12th century Spanish scholar, outlined a process, based on Talmudic sources; it starts with recognizing and admitting the wrongdoing, apologizing to the person you have hurt with your sin, and then each time you are faced with a similar situation behave in an acceptable way. Having to directly admit offenses to another human being gives concrete form to the abstract ideas of honesty, humility and empathy. Recognizing my shortcomings can help make me more tolerant of others and, ideally, help me have interactions with less strife.
Over and over in the High Holy Days liturgy, Jews ask God for forgiveness and praise God as forgiving and merciful. The liturgy is meant to inspire repentance, and to bring worshippers to emulate God by actively participating in a culture of forgiveness. The 30 days before Rosh Hashanah and then the 10 days following, culminating in Yom Kippur, are designated for preparing for divine forgiveness by asking for human forgiveness. Only God can forgive us, but if we can be forgiving we will be forgiven.
My goal for the High Holy Days is not to be Jewish. My goal is to be more human, to be comforting and not seek comfort, to be understanding and not seek to be understood and to be loving without seeking to be loved.
In this holy time, I want you to know how much I love each and every one of you. I want you to know how blessed I feel to be a part of your lives and I want to humbly ask each of you to forgive me for anything I might have done or not done that could have in any way hurt you, shamed you, or left you feeling less than.
I ask you to forgive me for my less-than-perfect human ways. Know that I will be praying for you and your families, for our small community and for the greater whole.
I pray that we all be sealed in the book of life for another year of good health, peace, joy and love
Teshuva: Spiritual Return, Repentance and Atonement
I make this covenant, with all its sanctions, not with you alone, but with those who are standing her this day before God your God and with those who are not with us today. Deuteronomy 29:13-14
By Lawrence Hoffman
Rosh Hashanah reminds me of our limitations. We like to imagine that “where there is a will, there’s a way”, but we know better. Most of the time it is self-delusion to think that our destiny is totally in our control; if we are only making an extra effort, or making a sound decision based on our will and doing the right thing. Jews may be especially susceptible to this illusion, that we are masters of our fate. Our culture has valued hard work, getting ahead and sacrificing for tomorrow- and by and large, especially here in America, that strategy has paid off. Which is probably why we think we can control anything we want.
This Shabbat reminds us that we cannot go through life bestowing unlimited blessing on those we love. We have the right to get tired, we sometimes fail, and we need help. Shabbat underscores that message. We are dependent on God to do what we cannot, and that is being human. It’s OK. In spiritual renewal we learn that we have to, “let go and let God”. Many of us would like to cure a child of leukemia, save a failed marriage or heal our child’s wounds. But we can’t do everything we would like to do.
The real heroes of this world are not the people who claw their way to the top as if they are immune to the rule that says there are limits to human energy, human competence and success. Forget the media’s adulation of the brave, the beautiful and the powerful. Let’s admire the men and women who are ordinary souls who muster the courage to go on day after day, week after week, know that they cannot solve every problem but committed nonetheless to solving what they can and showing up every day to do what they can.
This Rosh Hashanah remember that only God can bless the New Year. Remember that this is just the beginning; pause and reflect on the year past, find the fortitude and confidence of an ordinary soul to ask God to bless the coming months, one at a time.
It is the time of year before the beginning of the Jewish New Year to reflect on our choices as a person and member of a community. What has transpired in our relationships and how have we behaved. It is a time for introspection before we atone for our transgressions.
As we end the Jewish Year we are asked to do one thing: Choose Life, after accepting a Power greater than ourselves in creation and life we are asked to love the Almighty and live by the commandments, always keeping God in our lives, then we and our offspring shall live a life of joy and freedom.
We begin to ready ourselves for the Days of Awe with a fearless and moral inventory of our actions and thoughts. We are instructed to look at ourselves from the inside, to ask God for forgiveness and ready ourselves for repentance. The intent is to renew our God Consciousness and by words of prayer seek a Divine will for us. If we are to have a relationship with God, similar to Abraham’s, and then we must be rigorously honest in all our affairs. When we have separated ourselves from our Higher Power by our bad choices, whether in thought or deed, we have prolonged our returning to that Higher Power. This is the time to examine that relationship with this Power and to either repair it or build a new one. We are given this opportunity at least yearly because we have a loving and kind God who only wants good for us. If we will only accept The Almighty’s will for us and be willing to put our relationship with The Power of the Universe above all else.
In the Book of Psalms there are daily reminders of our seeking God in our lives, and of the embrace constantly waiting for us. The covenant that is made with each of us before we are born is that “We shall be a light unto the nations.” This is both a burden and a blessing. We are chosen, to carry this message to others who are suffering and give away what has been freely given to us. As Uncle Ben channeling Voltaire says to Spidey, “with great power comes great responsibility”
The Rabbis say, “ One must repeatedly confide in another person, a spiritual counselor or trusted friend, all improper thoughts and actions which have come to one’s heart or mind. In this way, with God’s will, we can rid ourselves of our defects of character.” Just as we are told to study or work with someone else or in a group, never alone.
Once we have processed our limitations and asked God for help, we are prepared for reconciliation and forgiveness from those we have wronged. Even if we feel others have wronged us, it is our “side of the street” we are concerned with. We must examine what part we played in creating the resentment and seek forgiveness of our self from God and be forgiving of others.
Throughout this time of year we approach God and others with humility, we seek to understand rather than be understood, to comfort rather than to be comforted and to love without expecting to be loved. We want to bring peace and the spirit of forgiveness to all who we encounter.
The act of turning to a life of Spirit is a continual process, one that we work on our entire lives. We are given the opportunity for a fresh start every day. We cannot be concerned about how long it will take or where the end of this journey is, or we will never get there. The important thing is to find the road, get on it and stay there.
We seek spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection. Spirituality by definition is imperfect, as are human beings.
Motivation < Action
By Paul Jarvis
Website Link: https://medium.pjrvs.com/motivation-action-1af2e99eec4f
We have somehow led ourselves to believe that we can’t act unless we’re motivated to do so. It’s tricksy (like a Hobbit), because wanting to be motivated is so alluring (like the Ring).
Motivation is to action as reading about exercise is to being in shape. Certainly, both can happen, but simply being motivated accomplished nothing while seeming like it’s accomplishing something.
Our problem is never motivation. Look at January 1st for everyone, ever. We’re all gung-ho about making changes at the start of a new year. Our problem isn’t a desire to do things, it’s just that most of us never follow through.
Being motivated to write articles doesn’t mean I’m going to write a single word. Feeling motivated to eat less vegan chocolates doesn’t mean I’ll eat less of them. Motivation feels important because it feels like action, but it’s not.
We attempt to motivate ourselves by getting excited about outcomes or thinking about how much better our lives will be once we are motivated. The issue isn’t that we want something, it’s that we think our desire for something automatically makes us more likely to achieve that something.
Motivation, even for mundane things like exercise or writing more, is theoretical. Whereas action is tangible.
When our theoretical ideas of wanting something take us further and further from putting something into practice, we get down on ourselves. We give up and often do the opposite (i.e. “I didn’t eat a healthy lunch today so it doesn’t matter if I have junk food for dinner” or “Why write anything now? I should have been writing for the last two weeks and be 10,000 words in already”).
The issue with motivation isn’t that we’re not motivated, it’s that we imagine that we need to be motivated in the ﬁrst place, instead of just doing the work. With creativity speciﬁcally, it’s easy to get into the mindset of waiting for the muse, when really; the best way for the muse to pay us a visit is to start working.
Co-exist with the lack of motivation as you act on what you feel motivated to do. In the end, the motivation doesn’t matter at all, it’s the action that does because it’s the action that produces the work.
Action requires that we tell our minds to shut up. We need to stop telling ourselves to be motivated or feel down when we don’t act on our
motivation sooner. We can’t argue with ourselves because even if we win, we lose.
Small actions often lead to bigger actions. Adding, “write a book” to your to do list will result in exactly zero books ever being written. It’s too massive of a task to sum up in a line. If you actually want to act, you need to break things down a bit. Instead of “write a book”, add “come up with 3 ideas for a book”. Sitting down for 30 minutes and writing can do this. Not writing well, not editing, not waiting until you’re motivated, but just sitting your ass in a chair and writing down ideas for 30 minutes. If you think too much about everything it takes to write a book and what can come from succeeding or failing after you’ve written it, you’ll talk yourself out of doing it before you even start.
Don’t let your brain talk you out of things! You can be smarter than your brain. You don’t need it or anyone else to motivate you to do something, you just need to shut yourself up and start doing it.
I don’t wait for motivation to strike; instead I get down to work. Motivation isn’t required for action. Frodo was the same; he acted instead of waiting to be inspired to act (with the help of Samwise of course). In the end he wasn’t powerful because he had or didn’t have the Ring, he was powerful because he kept taking action (and really, because he let Gollum defeat himself and fall into lava).Continue Reading...
O God of all comfort and mercies, Who helps us in a time of need, we humbly ask You to behold, visit and relieve those who have relapsed for whom are prayers are desired. Look upon them with the eyes of Your Mercy; comfort them with a sense of Your goodness; preserve them from the temptations of their addiction; and give them patience under their affliction. In Your time, restore them to a way of life and physical, mental and spiritual health. And help them we pray to listen, believe and do Your will.Continue Reading...
By Twinkle Powers
Drunken hook-ups are easy, but finding a boyfriend, that’s a total
test of sobriety. You know what I mean?
Hi, I’m Twinkle and I’m an alcoholic. I’m in my 10th year of sobriety. I have a sponsor. I go to four meetings a week. I attempt to practice the principals in all my affairs. Soooo, dating.
Dating has been quite an adventure. When I was drinking, I never had a boyfriend. Well, there was one time I kind of did. I was friends with this gay man, Brad, who worked at the Vegan Bakery. I hung out there a lot. He told me there were rats in the basement and rat shit in the food. I ate it anyway.
Tangent: At one point I was dating this guy Tim I met there who had long blond hair and was skinny and beautiful. He was a straight edge, vegan minimalist. I thought since he didn’t use, it would help me not use. He was impotent. I told Brad, and Brad said that Tim didn’t eat enough fat, and that was why he was impotent, so Brad would sneak flax oil into Tim’s smoothies to help me. It didn’t work. After two months with Tim, something went awry. We were out at a Piscatorial establishment and I decided to have some fish. I had been newly non-vegetarian at that point because I was too spacey with the drugs and being a vegetarian. I somehow found out that eating meat might help me stop being so spacey. I didn’t think that maybe stopping smoking pot all day would also help. Anyway, it was the first time I had eating meat around Tim (well it was fish) and he wouldn’t kiss me cause he was so grossed out that I had eaten it. He broke up with me cause I ate that fish. Okay, tangent over.
So Brad. After a while of Brad and I growing closer—remember I only knew of him as a gay man—he revealed he was attracted to me. He was really cute, so I was like, okay. One night he was over, and before we went to sleep he asked if I would be his girlfriend. I never had a boyfriend before, so this was a real opportunity to do something I felt ashamed I had never been able to do. I said, “Well, can I date other people?” And he said, “Okay, but you have to be my main squeeze.” I said I would do it. We went to sleep and I had a terrible time sleeping. I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping in the same bed as people. I felt so angry and tired that I couldn’t sleep that night. In the morning I told him that we needed to break up. He was like, okay. He was mellow. So, he was my first boyfriend. It lasted about nine hours. That was when I was about 22.
I didn’t have my next boyfriend till I was in my, shoot, maybe my fourth or fifth year of sobriety. This kid was 10 years younger than me. He was hot, fresh, and young. I didn’t really see him that often. I felt like it was a practice boyfriend. It’s actually hard to remember, but I think our conversations mostly annoyed me. I’m sure we had some fun times together, but can’t think of them right now. That lasted eight months. I just felt so proud of myself that I had my first real boyfriend. Yes, he was driving me crazy by the end of it, but whatever.
Oh, let’s back track for a minute. So, when I was using, I had a lot of one-night stands. I remember one night when I dressed up slutty and went to this bar called The Slipper Room. I met the bouncer. He wasn’t hot, but I wanted to get laid. I waited till everyone went home and we were making out in one of the booths. Of course I was drunk. We almost had sex, but I was like, this guy is fat and gross, so we just did other stuff.
When I was in my first year of sobriety I had a fair amount of casual sex because I was so used to it. People warned me that I would feel emotional about it. They said avoid emotional entanglements, but I didn’t feel emotional. I was numb or I just felt generally crazy, like I was on acid.
I didn’t really “thaw out” till my second year. My second year I cried every day. I was so lonely. I was kind of dating someone from the program who was unavailable and was very emotionally dependent on him. It was painful.
In my third year something really amazing happened. I got a job that involved being on the road for a month. Before that, I wasn’t really working, just living off savings that I was terrified of blowing through, and winding up destitute. At least I always eased my fears by the thought that maybe I could join a commune or something if things got really bad. So, I was on this job and I met a guy who was a total cocky heartthrob. He had a girlfriend back in his country. Okay, this is gross, but he had herpes on his mouth. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I rationalized that it had scabbed so much that it wouldn’t be contagious. Not only did we kiss, but he also went down on me, down there! I was scared of getting herpes, but I did it anyway. Also we had sex. (Somehow, I didn’t contract herpes.)
When I told my roommate about it, she made me feel bad. She said, how would you feel if you were the girlfriend. She showed me how I was harming both of them. I had never thought of it that way. She wasn’t even in the program. She was just a good person with morals. Everything I’ve learned about how to be a good person has come from people telling me or showing me. I did not get to learn these things from my family, because that’s just not how things went for me. So, I’ve been a slow learner, but grateful to be coming along.
Anyway, back to the story. So, the years moved on, and in my sixth year or so I attained my second boyfriend. At first I thought he was gay and that we were just hanging out as friends, because he was very feminine and artistic and wore black turtlenecks. He also mentioned that in high school he was part of something called Gay/Straight Alliance. But I was just hoping he might be straight and it turned out he was.
The first few months were really fun. He was very involved in lots of fun activities and at that point in my sobriety, I was a little stuck and depressed, and not doing that many fun activities. I actually met him at my singing group, which was one of the only fun things I did. So, we went hiking, and went to his church group, even though I’m Jewish. I was just glad to be out of my self-obsession. I became very close with his family. So, I still had my issue of not being able to sleep in the bed, so I would make him sleep on the floor. I was a jerk. I realized I didn’t really like him, I just liked his family and all the fun activities we did.
So, to make a long story short, a year ago I met the man of my dreams. We get along so well. It’s the first time it just feels easy and right. We live together and have talked about marriage and kids. To sum up, dating has been quite a roller coaster, but I stuck it out, and am so grateful to be with this amazing, funny, smart, successful, generous, fun, supportive man.
Twinkle Powers is a sober girl living in a town in the USA.
By Rabbi Kerry Olitzky
Melodies I weave, songs I sweetly sing; longing for your presence, to you I learn to cling. – Anim Zemirot
This is what I try to do in prayer. I take the words that have been given to me by those who came before and weave them into my own, hoping that the melody I weave in my heart-this love song with the Divine-brings me closer to the Power of the Universe. Prayer books are filled with such melodies. I need only sing them and claim them as my own. In singing them, they become mine.
I long for God’s presence in my life. Whether I am willing or comfortable enough to admit it, I really do. Don’t we all? Such recognition for me adds meaning and purpose to my life. This is a difficult step in spiritual renewal. I wasn’t always comfortable with such talk. I got used to it by doing it and accepting the Sunlight of the Spirit. Sometimes I am afraid by accepting that Power in my life I may lose self. The truth was that when I accepted the Spirit, I regained my life.
How splendid is your light, which worlds do reflect.
My soul is worn for Your love’s delight.
Please good God, do heal her, and show to her Your face.
So my soul can see You and bathe in Your Peace. There she will find strength and healing in this sight; Her joy will be complete, then Eternal her delight. A Prayer-Yedid Nefesh
How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!
By Rabbi Kerry Olitzky
This is the famous beginning of Balaam’s third blessing. It has become the introductory Morning Prayer, said upon entering a place of worship. Although the comment was a spontaneous expression of admiration at the sight of the Israeli encampment-a holy people living in peace-it also provides us with an insight to how serenity can be achieved in life.
“Tents” are a symbol for one’s interior space. Or, how things are within us? How we really feel? “Dwelling” similarly can be understood as our place in life. Are we satisfied with where we are? Are we free of resentment and envy of others? Are we aware of our fears? Or do we continue to let then occupy space in our minds? If we are satisfied, then we are enjoying peace and are feeling the blessings of life. But, If we are not-and are not willing to make an effort to let go of anger, fear, guilt, hate and other emotional and spiritual pain, then all that our Higher Power offers us in blessings will just be hollow. We will not be ready to receive them.
One of the greatest blessings of spiritual renewal is the discovery that what we focus on affects the way we feel. There is an abundance of blessings in our life, if we are ready for them. Let’s not be shortchanged because we don’t get everything we want, lets appreciate what we do get and be grateful for the things we don’t want and don’t get.
Blessings are the path of our journey home.
Pray only in a room with windows. Don’t shut yourself off from the outside world.
Dr. Harry Tiebout
Characteristic of the so- called typical alcoholic is a narcissistic egocentric core, dominated by feelings of omnipotence, intent on maintaining at all costs its inner integrity.
The outlines of a common character structure among problem drinkers and that the best terms he could find for the group of qualities noted was “defiant individuality” and “grandiosity.”
In my opinion, those words were accurately chosen. Inwardly the alcoholic brooks no control from man or God. He, the alcoholic, is and must be master of his destiny. He will fight to the end to preserve that positionContinue Reading...