Sunday, September 06, 2009

Teshuva as a response to 9/11

As both the anniversary of 9/11 and the beginning of Rosh Hoshanah are approaching, I thought I would highlight a talk by Rav Rosensweig that he gave on September 11, 2002. It is entitled, "The Teshuvas of Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur; Teshuva As a Response to 9/11"

In it, particularly the last 1o minutes, he makes a strong case for the need for teshuva -- "repentance - literally return" as a response to suffering, whether it is ours or the world's.

I find these words and this message to "return" to God, to return to Hashem, to repent for all we haven't done, to look within, as a powerful approach to changing the world within and without.

He says,
The Rambam is telling us that we have to act as if we are responsible because while we cannot always control what takes place in the world, we can always have input into the way in which we respond. And if we can refashion ourselves spiritually, reexamine our priorities, try to assess what is significant and meaningful about life, from our point of view the life of Torah and mitzvos. When we feel vulnerable and challenged to remember what it is that we live for, what are our objectives. If we can do that, then a) perhaps we will deserve better protection, b) perhaps we will uncover flaws that may contribute, but more important than all of that c) whether or not any of this specifically was responsible for our plight, we will have used tragedy as a catalyst for self-improvement. And while that does not necessarily lessen the pain, it is a positive and constructive response.
Yom Kippur is coming. It is time to reassess our priorities, to make sure they are in line. It is time to refashion ourselves. ... It is time of taking stock. It is time for self-improvement. It has nothing to do with only or it is not limited by only trying to figure out why it happened. More important to take the constructive step to make the tragedy a catalyst for spiritual growth.

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