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Entries in TTeshuvah (1)


Turn Turn Turn - the Key to Change


Israeli rabbi Yuval Cherlow shared that in his yeshivah high school the report cards contain an interesting hiddush. Along with a numerical grade, each boy is also graded with an arrow pointing either up or down. Because the numerical grade doesn’t convey enough information: the teacher needs to be able to communicate to the parents whether the student is moving in a general positive direction or is spiraling down.

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin teaches the same thing: he says that even more significant than the place where we’re at is the direction we’re moving in.

It seems that the key to making change, to the very valence of your existence, is to turn in the right direction (as the song says, “Turn, turn, turn”).
We need to point our spiritual nose forwards + upwards; then take a step, however small, to get going and keep going.

“Bederech she’adam rotze leilech, molichin oto” – the direction in which one desires to walk, that is the direction in which one is assisted in walking.

It’s about setting up the right desire in your heart, the right directionality. It’s like an escalator: you need to carefully and intentionally put your foot onto the one moving in the right direction, otherwise with each passing moment you’ll get further and further away from where you want to be.

This year I was so inspired by the scene in the book of Ruth where Naomi tries to push her Moabite daughters-in-law away, back to their original homes.

Orpah cries; she does care, she will miss Naomi; but she is not fierce enough in her desire, she is facing the wrong way (oref = back of neck), towards Moab. Thus Naomi successfully turns her back on her and leaves her behind.
Ruth is different. She clings to her mother-in-law, she is determined to accompany her in her direction. She is actively facing away from Moab and towards Bethlehem, towards the great unknown. That is where she will head, step by step. She will walk in the direction of love – her love for Naomi, her God and her people – and trust that love will see her through.

“Which way are we facing?” That is the real question, Hamlet.

This also answers another question we have. Why on Rosh Hashanah do we look ahead to the New Year, while on Yom Kippur we look back at our past year and do teshuvah? It’s logically backwards. First we should look back, and then we can look ahead, no?

Well, you can answer that crowning Hashem on Rosh Hashanah is the right springboard for our teshuvah. Teshuvah without recognizing G-d is only a shadow of itself.
But we can now add another answer: that if on Rosh Hashanah we’ve turned our faces in the direction of G-d and Kingship, then when we look back at our years on Yom Kippur, it will not be while facing that old year and its crimes and misdemeanours. Instead we’ll be doing that cheshbon nefesh with our minds looking back but our hearts and eyes looking ahead in a positive direction, the one to which we turned our faces on 1st Tishrei.

Because looking back is dangerous, it can transform us into a pillar of salt.

So let’s pick ourselves up
dust ourselves off
of whatever was past
and turn our nose in the
forward + upward direction for 5779.

Let’s connect to love of G-d and life
and rebuild trust
in the infinite possibilities awaiting us.

We take one small step
asking heavenly help to take the next
as the positive escalator moves forward
to take us
higher and higher
higher and higher.