Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Stuck at Phase II

So, according to Jewish tradition, teshuva (repentance) has 3 parts: Acknowledging your wrongdoing; feeling regret for it; and committing to never doing it again.

What do you do if the third part is . . . elusive?

I'm right now, at this very moment, contemplating something I did wrong quite recently, something which had the potential to hurt another person (though thank God, this particular time it did not). At the time I wasn't "thinking." But now it's done, and I realize it was rash and not a good judgement call. I know I did something wrong and acknowledge it. I certainly feel regret for it.

But how can I possibly know that I'll never do such a thing again? The human failing, the character flaw, that led me to do it the first time (or, as the case may be, the 5th or 10th or 50th time I've done something similar over the last 32 years) is still there. How can I know that I've erased the possibility of doing this particular transgression ever again?

Part of me feels that it's impossible. There's no way I can know. I can try to avoid it. But deep down I have to admit that the time will come when I'll probably do something similar, without thinking.

And yet, the other part of me realizes that the very reason teshuva is so hard is that I have to stop being "stuck" at this "never again" stage. I have to become a different person, the type of person who would never dream of doing this particular thing. I have to change my very character, so that it no longer has this particular flaw. Then, my teshuva will be complete.

I know that for most of my readers, this is old news. I have not really said anything new about teshuva here. But these profound ideas always feel new, when they are being internalized.

Well . . . 3 days left to overturn my character before Yom Kippur. In 3 days, Hashem managed to create the sky, the sea, the land, and celestial bodies. Compared to that, becoming a different person seems like nothing. And yet, it is everything.

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