I love it here. I can’t even express how grateful and thrilled I am to be in Jerusalem. So, here’s what’s been going on with me:
First, Shabbos deserves a brief mention. I spent it in the Jerusalem neighborhood where I’m living, which is almost exclusively Orthodox, and got a taste of what Shabbos really should be like. Nobody drives in my neighborhood on Shabbos, so everyone walks together to synagogue, not bothering to look out for cars; little children play in the streets while their parents are praying in the synagogue which is right down the street from anyone’s apartment; and the only thing you can hear is people connecting with each other and with G-d through Torah, prayer, and song.
Next: Goodness…I am involved in some seriously intense Torah learning! I suppose a blog isn’t a bad place to share some Torah thoughts….
It’s the month of Elul, right now, leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two of the most important days of the year. As we say in the prayer service, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed,” I don’t remember the exact wording, but–basically, everything that will happen in the upcoming year is written/sealed in the “book of life”–who will live and who will die, how much money each person is going to make in the next year, whether you will find your soulmate, etc. So, now’s the time to annul your vows, repent for any wrongdoing, and pray to be written and sealed in the Book of Life. Basically, it’s a time for “Teshuva, Tefillah, and Tzedakah”–repentance, prayer, and charity–which are said to reverse unfavorable decrees.
Sounds rather depressing, no? Talking to G-d for weeks on end about how imperfect we are and we don’t deserve to be forgiven because of this, that, and the other sin, but begging for forgiveness anyway. BUT: I learned today that the Chassidic master Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl said, quoting his teacher the Baal Shem Tov: “דהנה תשובה הוא מצות עשה מן התורה ולכן צריך לעשותה בשמחה.” — “Behold, repentance is a positive commandment in the Torah, and therefore one needs to do it with joy.”
How does one repent joyfully? Any thoughts?