We find ourselves during the Ten Days of Teshuvah (Repentance). During these 10 days of introspection, we reflect on the past year and take on good resolutions for the New Year.
Teshuvah literally means to return to our soul’s original and pristine state, like the day we were born. As we pass through life, we tend to get bored with the monotony and we repeatedly fall prey to the allure of some unwise and empty considerations that we now realize were worthless and unproductive. We look for fresh experiences, soon to realize that we were soiled by our errors and misjudgments. The essence of our soul, however, remains pure and untouched. Teshuvah gives us the ability to access and reconnect to that untouched self and restore our lives to factory settings.
Speaking about trying new things, I learned a few things this summer as I tried my luck at fishing.
Any good fisherman will tell you the best time to catch fish is during or after a heavy rain, for then fish swim to the top. Although they are already submerged in water, fish, like humans, crave something new. As the rain cools the water, fish rise to the top to look for fresh water and then they get caught.
We also yearn for fresh water. As life gets monotonous and we get tired of the same old spaghetti, we crave for something new.
The Torah, which provides us with the ideals and perspectives by which to lead our lives, warns us about the attraction of idol worship. It describes it as “something we never heard of before.” For that is precisely the attraction. It is something that breaks the gloom of monotony, and brings change and excitement. Too often, we feel that the Torah was good for the shtetl days, but for 2018, it’s stale, and boring. We therefore go on to embrace new ideas and throw away what our ancestors breathed and lived.
So what should we do about the monotony?
Well, another lesson I learned from fishing is that monotony is not necessarily a bad thing. A fish in water can stay in the same place for a long period. It looks ‘bored’ and almost lifeless. Take the fish out of the water and it will jump up and down and fly up into the air. In which circumstance is this fish more ‘alive’? Clearly, the sudden outburst of movement is a sign of death, not of life.
So too with us. On the surface, some people’s lives seem so full of novelty and adventure. They run from here to there, from one distraction to another, jumping up and down restlessly.
The truth is we can’t always confuse the ‘new’ with positive and the ‘old’ with negative. Sometimes, it is the other way around. We search for the new, because we are dying inside and we seek new experiences to get us excited and give us some sense of happiness.
Teshuvah is about returning to our true self, to be at peace with our self and to recognize who we are and what our values are. Although this may seem boring, that is not because we are bored, but rather because we are submerged in our life-giving waters.
Wishing you and yours a Happy and Sweet New Year!