A Thought on Teshuvah

by Eric Safern

Today, I'll say over some Torah, most of it I heard in the name of R' Shlomo Carlebach Z'L.

And you shall eat your tithes before G-d, in the place where G-d will choose to rest His Name . . ., in order that you should learn to feal awe for G-d all the days.

-- Dev. 14:23

Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv (the "Alter of Kelm") explained the end of this verse: This does not mean that one must be in awe of G-d all of one's days; that goes without saying. Rather it means that one must learn all of one's days how to feel that awe.

Yira - Awe, along with Ahava - Love - these are the two ways we should relate to Gd.

Rav Simcha is saying that there's always room for improvement in our relationship with Gd - just like there's always room for improvement in all of our relationships - family, friends, everyone!

Life means growth - if we stop growing, what are we doing here?

Reb Shlomo z'l once said, this world is a hospital.

As we enter Elul, the month of self-improvement, sometimes we get too focused.

I know I'm supposed to fix myself, to improve. And then I backslide a little - I oversleep one morning, or I yell at someone I love, and I start to beat myself up - I'm so far from perfect - I'm nothing!

But, he said, don't despair if you're not a perfect human being, if your soul is a little bit sick - that's OK - because this world is a hospital for the soul!

Everyone has flaws - we're here to fix those flaws - that's our job!

The Sukachover Rebbe was the son-in law of Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

He married very young, already with tremendous knowledge - a real genius.

Once, he became very, very sick, and his father came to the Kotzker to pray for his son-in-law.

Rebbe, he said, pray for my son - he is 14 years old and he knows the whole Torah!

The Kotzker answered him, 'You call that learning?'

Whatever the father said about the son, the Kotzker knocked it down.

A miracle happened, the son recovered. And his father told him what happened.

"I asked your father-in-law to pray for you, and I told him what a Talmud Chacham you were, how you really deserved that great miracles should happen to you - and all he could say was "You call that learning?' 'You call that knowledge?'"

The son said, "my father-in-law is very deep!"

"Don't you understand, I came to this world in order to learn - and you were telling him that I learned everything I needed to know. So I can leave this world already, chas ve-shalom."

"But my father-in-law was yelling 'That is called learning? He's not done yet!'"

If somebody says, "I'm perfect," that's bad news - you'ld better write your own eulogy - because tomorrow you might be leaving!

Now it says when Gd created this world, "Asher bara Elokim La'asos" This is the world of action, of fixing - fix it here and now - because once you're gone, it's too late to fix anything.

The Chafetz Chaim said, "Kol zman she-haner dolek, efshar letakein" - "As long as the candle is burning, (whatever is wrong) can be fixed"

We can paraphrase: "Kol zman she-haner dolek, yesh letakein" - "As long as there is life, there is something to fix."

There's more here, but we'll save it for another time.

© 1995 The AishDas Society