Our capacity for self-creation is infinite. At Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the creation of the world to remind us that God’s creative power dwells in each of us as well. We have immense capacity to determine the type of person we want to be. We are held back by illusion and fear far more than external limits.
Teshuvah, repentance, is one key tool of self creation and transformation. According to Maimonides, Teshuvah has three key stages. First, we must examine our behaviors and deeds. Only through careful self-examination can we realize our need for correction. Though it seems trivial to say, without self-awareness no inner change is possible.
Second, we must verbally confess that which we wish to change or heal in the self. Just as God creates the world through speech-acts, so too the work of self creation begins with speech. The world of thought must be carried into the world of speech to finally be articulated into action.
Third, we must change our behavior. Thought and speech now must emerge into our lived reality and behavior. We must so change the self that now, when that which previously led to a stumbling occurs, we do the right thing. We transform ourselves into a new person who has been elevated beyond the previous self.
At the beginning, we may do this work in areas that are easier to change. Perhaps we will explore one specific behavior or capacity and through the power of Teshuvah realize our power to become a new being. Once we discover the power of Teshuvah in our lives, we may become encouraged to realize that our ability to grow and become a new person is far greater than the specific behavior. Given such encouragement, we may look at broader areas of the self for transformation through Teshuvah.
I would like to invite you to ready yourself for the Holidays this year in two ways. First, we have set up an anonymous link to share / confess an area you need to work on this year. Please complete this form. Your response will be submitted to a spreadsheet automatically without any personal identifying information. Please indicate if you are willing to have your confession shared at the Holidays (anonymously of course). Even though anonymous, this potentially public confession can enable a Teshuvah process of real change for you.
Second, a three week series on transformation for the month of Elul begins Tuesday. Register here. I will be offering a class with Dr. Ray Pestrong on Geologic and Personal Transformation, Rabbi Graff and Jeff Schwartz will be offering a class on the possibilities of transformation in the liturgy, and Jacques Adler will be leading a pottery workshop limited to 10 students. We will study on three Tuesday evenings from 7-8:15pm and then have a beer and wine reception until 9pm.
I wish you an Elul of introspection and personal transformation where you can discover your own God given capacity for personal transformation through the power of Teshuvah.
Rabbi David Booth