Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teshuvah Day 6: How much time do you need to change?

"You know," I was saying to myself the other day, "Yom Kippur simply is not long enough.  Muslims fast for a whole month during Ramadan.  That's a whole month of repentance, 30 days of painful introspection and the opportunity to change one's behavior.  We have only one day."

Then I reconsidered.  It is true that there is only one major fast day during the year when we plead our case before God and, according to the Torah, practice self-denial:

וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם
Ve-initem et nafshoteikhem
You shall afflict your souls (Numbers 29:7).

The tenth day of the month of Tishrei is set aside for suffering, for asking ourselves the really hard questions.

But that's just the Torah.  The rabbis understood that teshuvah / repentance literally can't happen overnight.  As such, we have been sounding the shofar, reciting Psalm 27, and doing heshbon ha-nefesh / inventory of the soul since the beginning of Elul.  Furthermore, the opportunity to ask others for forgiveness continues all the way until Hoshana Rabba, the 7th day of Sukkot.

OK, so it's not fasting every day for a month.  But there are no fewer than 50 days out of the year during which we should be thinking about self-transformation.  If we take this seriously, if we focus our energy on introspection and teshuvah, we have ample opportunity for change.

Gemar hatimah tovah!  May you be sealed for a good year.


  1. Great blog Rabbi. Glad to have happened upon it through Twitter (I'm @RabbiKip). G'mar Tov.

  2. @RabbiKip Thanks! חתימה טובה!