Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippur Roundup

A few good reads, inspiring reads, and thoughts on Yom Kippur and teshuva as we head into it after the jump. All quotes are merely excerpts I personally gained from; I strongly suggest reading the entire posts in context.

SJ is trembling:
How are we supposed to concentrate our thoughts to heaven if our stomachs are rumbling? Rabbi Teller counters: haven't you ever been reading, and been so engrossed in the book that the hours fly by, until you finish, only to realize that your neck is sore, that it is 3:00 am, and that you are super hungry? (I, for one, know that this has happened to me.) It is possible to get so engrossed in a task that everything else gets shut out, even basic physical concerns. If we were able to immerse ourselves entirely in our tefillos, we would not even notice our hunger. Though very few people are actually on that level, even I have experienced it to some degree, if only for moments instead of hours. So on Yom Kippur, when my stomach starts to distract me, I redouble my efforts to focus on what I am saying, on what weighs in the balance and what I am asking for.
R' Shaya Karlinsky at BeyondBT with many thoughts, including:
Pushing too fast, whether ourselves or others, has a serious potential down side. If a person changes in a way that lasts for a certain amount of time, then he drops the changes with regret (which, unfortunately seems to be evidenced in “angry” ex-BT’s) then not only is he unlikely to return at a later stage, but the time he spent doing Mitzvoth is negated.

Patience in our growth, patience with the growth of others, will ensure that the changes that happen will be stable, creating a foundation that can be used for future growth. Decisions about change must be made with a realistic and penetrating assessment of their likely long-term consequences.

Much of Jewish education focuses on educating our children (and grown-ups) towards observance of ritual matters, and adopting proper ideological beliefs. Most efforts are devoted to increasing knowledge and commitment to Shabbath, Kashruth, Family Purity and Prayer; and to believe in the Truth and Divinity of Torah. What seems to be ignored is a fundamental lesson taught to us by our Rabbis, and developed by the Mussar and Chassidic masters: “Derech Eretz Kadmah LaTorah,” proper behavior precedes Torah, and “Im ein derech eretz, ein Torah,” if there is a lack of proper behavior and respect towards other, there can be no Torah.
Greg gives a narrative of what [he feels] the day is about - a good reminder for us all and a pretty good explanation, particularly for those who would like to know more about Yom Kippur.

R' Dovid Gottlieb (Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore) has a very good post on teshuva at Cross-Currents including some interesting insights:

In fact, the Rambam (Laws of Repentance 2:2) lists the following crucial components: azivas ha-chet – the sinner must cease and desist from the prohibited behavior; kabalah le’asid – he must then commit to not repeating this behavior anytime in the future; charatah al ha-avar – he should sincerely regret his sinful action; and finally vidui – he must verbally confess his sin.

It is striking that the Rambam lists kaballah, the pledge to stay the improved course, before requiring charatah, the regret over the misdeed. At first glance this sequence appears anachronistic, as the future is placed before the past. And more than just an issue of timing, logically it would appear that charatah would come before kabbalah.

How are we to understand the Rambam’s order?

I think it’s possible that the Rambam is teaching us a profound lesson in the psychology of spiritual growth.

Deep down, many people don’t believe that there is a meaningful chance for lasting change. Past habits are deemed too hard to break and previous mistakes are considered too numerous to rectify; we feel unworthy of redemption. Even when God is ready to forgive us we are not always willing to forgive ourselves. This may be mistaken but it is a common feeling.

If a person focused initially on the guilt of the past, there would be a real danger that instead of charatah being a catalyst for positive change, he or she could become trapped by negative feelings of despair and hopelessness.

Even though it may be intuitive to focus on the past we are instructed to look towards the future because the Rambam understands that the most profound inspiration for change is the positive image of the new and improved person we will be. We must be able to hope for a better tomorrow before we come to grips with a disappointing yesterday. We need the vision of what lies ahead to give us the strength to face up to what came before. Once the kabbalah has taken place, then – and only then – are we ready for charatah.

Elsewhere, Jack has a nice and comforting video from the IDF called "Army Letters"; and DAG and Sephardi Lady point to communal issues - and more importantly, ideas and solutions - worth keeping in mind at this time of year.

Again, have a g'mar chasima tova, and for those who will not be reading over Sukkos, have a wonderful chag as well. SerandEz will be taking Elianna on her first airplane trips as we head to Cleveland and Los Angeles for 5 and 6 days; we're just hoping it's not going to be cold and snowing in Cleveland. Over Pesach, the weather was 80 and sunny on the first day, snowing 20 hours later, and 8 inches on the ground by daybreak of first day chol hamoed.

I hope to put up the recipes that were asked for sometimes after Shabbos.

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