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Helpful Advice for Teshuva


Dear Friends,

Teshuvah is the process of spiritual change and renewal which enables us to return to our Divine Source; moreover, teshuvah enables us to return to our own souls - the sacred Divine spark within each of us. One does not have to be a theologian in order to realize that the whole world is in need of teshuvah. The current headlines and media reports are enough of a reminder! The universal prayers of Rosh Hashana which focus on the spiritual renewal of all life are therefore especially relevant to our situation.
We need to also remember, however, that the media presents a distorted picture of the current reality, for the media rarely reports on the daily, life-giving activities of those good people who are committed to ethical and spiritual values. When others strive to increase hatred, they strive to increase love; when others allow their selfishness to increase corruption, they increase justice. And our sages say that the power of good is much stronger than the power of evil. In the News Down Here, the headlines are about violence and injustice, but in the Heavenly Times, the headlines are about the great acts of love and justice that good people perform. And a special front-page headline is given for those who let go of past hurts and forgive others. For through their healing forgiveness, thay allow shalom and unity to emerge in their circles. It is therefore a tradition that before Rosh Hashana we ask each other for forgiveness for any action or words that might have caused each other pain.
The God of history will lead humankind into the messianic age, but Jewish tradition teaches that we are to be involved in the process through our words and deeds. We are praying for a good and sweet year, but let us also strive to add some sweetness and goodness within our own circles.
I will conclude this letter with a story that contains some helpful advice for many of us. I heard this story from the Rav of my synagogue, who knows the individual involved. There is a good, kind, sensitive man in our community of Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, who has always been a happy person, but suddenly he became depressed. There was no apparent reason, as everything in his life seemed to be going well.  His family became very worried about him, and he agreed to talk with a doctor who specialized in such problems. After an examination and a long conversation, the doctor asked him, "How often do you listen to the news?" The man replied that given the difficult situation in Israel and the world, he listened to the news several times a day." The doctor replied, "I would like you to avoid listening to the news for the next week, and I will consult with you then." After the week was over, the man told the doctor that he was feeling much better! This sensitive man had let the media distort his sense of reality, and after he went on a "news fast," he was able to reconnect again to the happier reality of his own meaningful life.
This week, beginning at sundown on Wednesday, we have two days of Rosh Hashana which are immediately followed by Shabbos. We therefore have the golden opportunity for a three-day "news fast" which can help us connect to the happier reality of a meaningful life. This sacred and uplifting period gives us the opportunity for heartfelt prayer, spiritual study, and reflection on how we can increase love and goodness in the world. And through praying, celebrating, and feasting with others, we are reminded that we are part of a community which can be a source of life and blessings for others.

May we be blessed with an uplifting year.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen