Teshuva

0915mistakeskiddishAs we grow through life, we continue to learn from our experiences, our interactions with others, our teachers and our families. None of us know all we need to, we all make mistakes, do the wrong thing, follow the wrong path or make a ‘not so good decision’ at some point of our lives. The wonderful thing is that we are allowed to, we can face the consequences, brush ourselves off and commit to making better decisions the next time and move forward. That results in learning, growing from experience and becoming a more rounded person.

Unfortunately, we often get stuck having behaved badly, encountering the consequences of our actions, internalizing the guilt and punishing ourselves. This is a self destructive pattern that can hold us back. In fact, it can lead to further bad behavior or less-than-rational decision making, resulting in even worse consequences and sometimes becoming a downward spiral.

As adults we know that in order to learn from an experience, we need to admit and acknowledge our less-than-perfect behavior. This is the time of year that we are required to make teshuva—to acknowledge our sins, to repent and to forgive. This powerful act allows us to move forward with our lives and is an empowering concept to teach and model to our children. Rabbi David Blumenthal, a Professor of Judaic Studies at Emory University speaks of five elements when making teshuva: the recognition of your sins; the remorse you feel for committing them; the desisting from sin; making restitution for your sins; and confessing them.

What a liberating gift to give our children!  We can teach and model moving beyond bad behavior and mistakes, learning from the past. We can empower them to know that it is possible to do better in the future and to leave the past behind them. Each year is brand new, filled with possibility and hope……….wishing you all a Shana Tovah and a very happy and healthy 5776.  _

Sue Penn is the mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.

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