Food For the Soul
Ten Days of Repentance
The 10-day period beginning on Rosh Hashanah and ending on Yom Kippur is known as the “Ten Days of Repentance”. This is the period, say the sages, of which the prophet speaks when he proclaims (Isaiah 55:6) “Seek G-d when He is to be found; call on Him when He is near.” Psalm 130, Avinu Malkeinu and other special inserts and additions are included in our daily prayers during these days.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin writes: “Commonly translated as repentance, teshuvah literally means return. Teshuvah is the soul’s capacity to return to its original state, to its pristine core. As we pass through life, we are invariably coarsened and sullied by our errors and misjudgments, or simply by the travails of physical life; but our innermost self, the veritable part of G-d that is the essence of our soul — remains untouched. Teshuvah is the G-d-given ability to access and reconnect to that untouched self, re-establish our lives upon its foundation, and even redefine a negative past in its purifying light.”
Quoting the Chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalman of LIadi, Rabbi Shurpin adds: “The world thinks that teshuvah is for sinners. But in truth, also the perfectly righteous person must do teshuvah — that is, return to the root-source of his soul.”
(Note: This year Yom Kippur begins the evening of September 15 and ends the evening of September 16.)
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, “Shabbat of Return.” The name derives from the Haftarah (reading from the prophets) for this Shabbat, which opens with the words (Hosea 14:2), “Return O Israel unto the L-rd your G-d…” Occurring in the “Ten Days of Repentance” (see “Laws & Customs” for Tishrei 3 on Chabad.org), it is a most auspicious time to rectify the failings and missed opportunities of the past and positively influence the coming year.
The master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Ari”) taught that the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which will always include one Sunday, one Monday, etc.) correspond to the seven days of the week. The Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur includes within itself all Sundays of the year; the Monday embodies all Mondays, and so on. Shabbat Shuvah is thus the archetypal Shabbat — the juncture in time at which we are empowered to influence every Shabbat of our year.
Mind Over Matter
Think with your soul
On Yom Kippur, we rise above the corporeal reality of day-to-day life, focusing solely on the spiritual. This is the day when we get in touch with our inner selves, our angelic side. And just as angels don’t eat or drink, neither do we.
But let’s face it: we’re not angels. We struggle with our tummies’ call. Rabbi Aron Moss suggests some “distancing” from our bodies. “On Yom Kippur, become an observer of the body from the point of view of your soul,” he writes. “Watch your body hunger, pity it for its weakness and frailty, and resolve that in the year to come, you will not make your body and its temporal pleasures the be-all-and-end-all of your life. Rather, you will care for your body so it can serve as a vehicle of goodness, to achieve the mission that your soul was sent to this world to fulfill.”
Rabbi David Kimchi explains (Michah 7:18), “Who, O G-d, is like You, who pardons iniquity and overlooks transgressions for the remnant of His heritage! He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy”. Those that remain when the Redeemer comes… though they will be guilty to the point that they should not leave the galut (exile) because of their evil deeds, G-d will not look at their behavior forever “because He delights in mercy…” His mercy shall prevail over their sins when the time of redemption arrives!
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Doing Teshuvah doesn’t necessarily mean joining a Chassidic community. But for some, it works.
As I open a text message from a relative, I see it is an article about Chassidim. Before I even look at the title, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. No doubt it will be about the story of people fleeing the Chassidic community, the only story we seem to hear about – and it feels like a punch in the gut. Such narratives seem to focus only on the difficult issues that truthfully every community struggles with. However, more than that, these stories depict a particularly secular ideal—the Enlightenment notion of the free person. The person leaving is finally untethered from serfdom and is able to freely exert his or her individual, rational desires. It is someone no longer stuck in the past in some illogical belief system that controls his or her life. It is the story of logic over myth, the individual over the collective, truths over the “Truth,” and most importantly, secularism over religion. But for every person who leaves the community, there is one who enters. One who finds connection, meaning, family, community, strength and spirituality in its ancient laws.
Full disclosure: I am one of those people. Here is a short look at my story. The story that doesn’t make sense to the secular press and that flies in the face of what people consider a good life or the “right” values. But it is a story that exists for hundreds of people and should be told.
Rather than becoming disillusioned with the Orthodox community, I became disillusioned with the liberal, feminist, secular values of my college campus and peers. Talk about abuse and neglect! Every weekend there were horrible stories of girls left drunk at fraternity parties, kids sitting depressed and suicidal alone in their dorm rooms, and complete confusion about what we were supposed to do with our lives. I jumped from one school club to another—Hare Krishna, the Women’s Center, Rugby Club, the Underground Poets, you name it. Everywhere people were telling me that we have to change the world, yet there was no objective “good” to seek. Everyone makes their own reality, but the religious, conservatives, are “bad.” I felt that there was only one party line, but it didn’t fit me. One weekend when I signed up for a Jewish retreat called a Shabbaton, I found a sweet family with kids around the table talking about G-d. This was a totally different reality, one I had never known existed.
Soon, I was going on Shabbatons every weekend and learning as much as I could about this religion—the religion of my mother’s ancestors that I had never explored or cared for. Much of what I found I fought with the rabbi about, and sought out more and more answers for. My mind battled my heart as I was drawn spiritually to the Orthodox community, though my feminist side held up a fight against it.
Finally, when I began to learn the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I found the resolution of my inner conflicts. I saw Chabad shluchos (missionaries) building large Jewish families while teaching, running large outreach centers, writing, counseling—you name it. Under the guidance of the Rebbe, Chabad women were investing in their traditional roles as women while also going out into the public domain to change the world. This was the balance I was searching for.
Currently, I am married and building my family while pursuing my Ph.D. in religious studies. I intend to write my dissertation about the way secular feminism has excluded religious women from its philosophy. Meanwhile, Chabad women are expanding the notion of what makes a feminist to include both traditional, essentialist aspects of womanhood with the publicly empowered woman secular feminists are exclusively focused on. In this convergence, we can learn much about what the future of a diverse and inclusive feminism could look like.
So, here I am. A multifaceted woman who chose as an adult to join the Chassidic community. With all its failings and drawbacks, there are still so many stories to tell of people going against the current and popular opinion to join this community. There are nuances of which type of community (Chabad is quite different from other streams), but the fact that there are tides pulling in, even while there are those washing out, is worthy of notice.
Condensed from an article by Chava Green. (Editorial note: Chava’s story is but one of a growing number of positive and truthful depictions of life in Chabad communities. Check out the thought-provoking documentary series by non-Jewish filmmaker, Peter Santenello, on YouTube.com)