The Increments of Tishri




T’shuva, personal reformation, is a process. So, too is forgiveness. So, too, is healing.


As I type these words, I am supported by pillows and am soothed by a hot water bottle. My back is “out,” again, and, as such, I am permitted, by my doctor, to sit up for no more than fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. Accordingly, it is taking me several vertical sessions, in combination with some hunting and pecking, completed while I’m horizontal, to generate this entry.


My process of slowly producing a text makes me think of Tishri. The Boss inscribes us, hopefully for the good, on Rosh Hashanah. That fate of ours is then sealed on Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, we are granted time, specifically until the end of Sukkot, before that volume containing our destinies gets permanently shelved. Even afterwards, we can repent and change that book’s decrees.


I believe, IYH, I will heal from this latest injury. Physical healing takes time and requires that I follow certain procedures. 


Likewise, I hope my soul will heal from the many defects in it, which have been revealed to me and over which I have been musing over during these Yomim Noraim, these Days of Awe. Spiritual healing, too, requires that I follow certain procedures, first and foremost of which is learning how to let go of the real or imagined hurt that I feel in my human relationships, about which I’ve already spoken words of absolution.


As with health, in our spiritual lives, it’s better to engage in preventative measures than to suffer from an absence of ease. Wise ones make a habit of examining their choices, daily, before retiring, and of rectifying any observed offenses either before sleeping or early on subsequent mornings. Folks who enjoy a feeling of closeness to The Boss, likewise, pray regularly, knowing that certain human desires have high price tags and that both the actual “cost,” in prayers, of any particular wanted end can be high and can be hidden.


Most of the rest of us, though, are less righteous than are Tzaddikim. We might have a habit of prayer, but we might also forget to include prayer in our mundane seekings. 


Afterall, histadlut is only one portion of humanity’s reaching toward health, wealth, wisdom, and more. Without sending up tributes and without being willing to accept cosmic mussar, we’re skunked. Providentially, our Creator, having made us, knows our foibles and gifts us with a heavenly amount of patience and of compassion.


Alternatively, we might recognize the power of the act of connecting to our Source, especially in terms of that power’s influence on our lives’ details, but might miss that such a connection, at certain times, has to be reinforced by incremental adjustments in both our prayers’ intensity and in our prayers’ quantity, in order to have impact. That is, we get blindsided by our fundamental nature.


Even those among us who succeed in praying for “minutia” with all of their hearts and all of their souls, we might yet fail to improve themselves if they fail to realize that our communication with our Father in Heaven is bidirectional. HaKodesh Baruch Hu sends messages to us. We need to be willing to hear and to respond to His prompts; we need to be willing to amend our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. We need to practice true forgiveness.


Consider, we ask Hashem, especially during Tishri, to excuse us from the transgressions that He revealed to us solely on the merit of our promising to work on ourselves. We simultaneously ask Hashem to excuse us, without merit, just on the basis of rationality, from the transgressions about which only He knows. We “argue” that we can’t work on those facets of ourselves about which we are oblivious.


Meanwhile, most of us remain hard pressed to extend similar generosity to each other. Even though we say we mochel, forgive, others, rarely do our utterances rise beyond the semantic to the existential. Rarely do we extend empathy “on loan,” or accept that other folks might be unaware that they hurt us.


It behooves to back our pardons with existential power. Just as words have the capacity to marry people, to promote people among social ranks (think about the knighthood ceremony), or, has v’shalom, to declare war among people, words have the creation-impacting ability to mend relationships.


However, it takes the greatest of human qualities to actually release resentments. Grudges make us feel mighty in situations in which we would otherwise feel weak. Anger makes us feel big in the course of goings on during which we would otherwise feel disempowered. 


If we actually stopped lording over other folks who have “done us wrong,” we would need to be more vulnerable, i.e. we would need to rely more on The Almighty. Most of us continue to choose to pocket fear of the unknown rather than to mantel ourselves with faith.


Said differently it’s possible and, concurrently, very, very difficult to actually practice, i.e. to imprint as our actions, true forgiveness. Yet, our wellbeing depends on our making this change. As long as we hold on to what amounts to be the illusion that we are in charge, we fail to grow and maybe, G-d forbid, even to survive.


Fortunately, as aforementioned, our futures are not locked in during a lone (holi)day. What’s more, as long as we inhabit this world, we are given the ability to use the present to change the past. 


Tishri’s grandeur is, thus, at least partially, its incremental progression to greater goodness. During this month, we are assisted by the attention-commanding sounds of the shofar. Additionally, this span features not one, but two fasts. During Tishri, too, we have Sukkot, a festival about which we are commanded to be joyful. Hashem has graciously, wisely and generously sent us many routes by which to redirect our intentions and actualizations. If not by His judgment, then by His kindness, we are to revise ourselves and to get closer to Him.


In a word, my back hurts. I’m missing Older Dude’s tekes kumta, the ceremony in which soldiers receive their unit-specific berets, and will have to rely on family members to help prepare foods for our holiday guests. 


In balance, gam zu la tova. That I feel pain is strong proof that I am alive. That I have pain is a measure of the Aibishter’s kindness; I am being given kaparot, means of offsetting wrongdoings, now, in order that I might later have a fuller measure of goodness. I am also being gifted with a reminder that I need to mend my ways, especially that I need to work on being more forgiving.


Hashem’s clemency, auspiciously, is only somewhat based on the mercy any of us are able to generate toward each other. It’s to our advantage that as Tishri pulls us higher, Hashem embraces us slowly.