T’Shuvah starts with being open to the possibility of change, the desire to change and the commitment to change. I begin each Elul with the prayer, Adonai, Adonai. This is found in Exodus after the Golden Calf incident. Many people think that this is a plea to God to remember to be compassionate and kind. I believe it is a plea to ourselves to have the commitment to truth, empathy and repair. I chant this prayer as a mantra for 5-10 minutes in order to put myself into a state of Grace so that I can be honest and truthful with myself. After I attain this state, I begin to write my Chesbon HaNefesh, my accounting of my soul. I have to see all of myself, good and not so good. I have to be willing to confront all of my being, inside and out. I do this using the prayer Ashamnu from the Yom Kippur Liturgy. My way of using this prayer follows the Hasidic tradition of looking inside myself, I learned this from Rabbi Jonathon Omer-man and have adapted it in some ways.
The first word is Ashamnu, I am guilty. I ask myself, how have I “missed the mark” (a translation of the Hebrew word Het) by feelings of excessive guilt and worthlessness? I take a sheet of paper and make four columns like this:
The heading has Excessive guilt and worthlessness. The first column has the actions I take that personify this, the second column has who was impacted/affected and includes God and myself. The third column is how they were impacted/affected and the fourth column has what is the Tshuvah I need to make.
An example from this year for me is:
1) I don’t finish writing projects I have started because I feel unworthy of having anything to say and who would want to read/use these anyway!
2) The following entities are impacted; God, myself, my wife, my daughter, my congregants, the residents of Beit TShuvah, others in the world.
3) God is impacted because I am not taking my place and using the gift of insight and wisdom that God has implanted in me. I am affected because I am letting the voice of my own negativity win. Everyone else is affected because they don’t get another way of understanding the teachings of the Tradition and they don’t get to see and hear all of me.
4) My Tshuvah is to finish the projects, not worry about the results and live my place in the world a little more.
I hope you will join me on this journey and remind me to not give up and engage in discussions about my writings and thoughts.