Teshuva & Wonder: The Keys to Leave the Cage!

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…“Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption”…

 

If you have no regrets obviously you haven’t had a Jewish Mother, or you haven’t heard about Teshuva…

 

How often do you hear people saying, I have no regrets…. I am done!

I am set in my ways….

And almost in the same line: Nothing can surprise me anymore, I have seen everything!

Today I want to talk to you about two elements that have the power to let our experiences make a difference in our lives.

I want to talk to you about the gift of experiencing regret and wonder!

 

Regret and wonder are two elements that allow us to experience the world in a reflective dimension.

Feeling regret is like activating our “Quality Control” system. It is the internal component that allows us to revise and question our actions. A life without regret means to live without questioning ourselves. So no matter what you do it will never get better nor will it be different.

Wonder is the capability to perceive something at a level that elevates our being.

 

Maimonides explains that the first of the ten commandments is אני ה’ אלוהיך / I am Adonai your God, and that consequently it is a positive commandment (Mitzvah) to get to know God.

So how do you do that?  Assuming that God is not like the CEO of a company sitting in an office where you can meet him, how do you get to know Him?

One of the possibilities is by exploring the creation. Maimonides argued that the divine expresses itself by the rules of nature.

Another possibility is by getting to know fellow humans. Torah teaches us that Man was created in the image God, so by getting to know the diversity of humanity we might be able to discover some of the infinity of the divine.

 

תהילים ק״ד:כ״ד
(כד) מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ יְהוָה כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ.

 

Psalms 104:24
(24) How great/many are Your works, O God! In wisdom/chochmah You have made them all; The earth is full of Your creatures.

 

So this idea of getting to know God, which might sound complicated, is actually about very simple things…

 

Listen to the trees’ leaves falling in the fall,

Hear the rush of the water,

Walk on the beach,

Climb a mountain,

Relax with a sundown,

Take your dog for a walk

Enjoy Art,

Witness creativity,

Be moved by compassion…

Learn from your interactions with others

Better yourself

Accompany your loved ones in their different stages of life

Fix what is wrong

Celebrate and embrace your  blessings…

 

All these things can be absolutely meaningless to you or completely out of your range if you don’t have your senses of regret and wonder working.

 

The great leader of nineteenth-century German Orthodoxy, Samson Raphael Hirsch, surprised his disciples one day when he insisted on traveling to Switzerland. “When I stand before the Almighty,” he explained, “I will be asked many questions.… But what will I say when … and I’m sure to be asked: ‘Why didn’t you see my Alps?’” Jewish Wisdom, page 230
The world is out there and it is a positive commandment to discover it. Therefore you should be very careful of placing yourself in the Cage of – I have no regrets, I am done, I am set in my ways, Nothing can surprise me anymore. I have seen everything!

This mental cage completely disconnects us from any possibility of learning.

Abraham Joshua Heschel says:

As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder.(Heschel, Abraham Joshua. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism (p. 46))

 

Today during our services we sang the verse from the psalms:(51:13)  אַל-תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ; וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ, אַל-תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי Don’t cast me away from your presence; and do not take your holy spirit from me.

We say don’t abandon me and don’t take away your spirit from me. But in a more “living to do” perspective, we actually know what to do in order to keep this presence as a part of our lives.  Teshuva –  returning, and Wonder – embracing, these are the keys!

The Talmud includes Teshuva as one of the mysterious things that were created before humanity. In that way it establishes that human life is inconceivable without the possibility of returning to God. Teshuva requires us to recognize ourselves as vulnerable and fallible but ultimately it represents the faith in our capability to change.   

At the junction between Teshuva and Wonder I find the words of Kathryn Schultz very inspiring:

…” We hold another conference. The theme of this one, as you guys have now heard seven million times, is the rediscovery of wonder. And to me, if you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step outside of that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say, “Wow, I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong”…

 

The internal element that we need to find in order to embrace teshuva and wonder, is humility.

Humility is born in the recognition of the infinity of the universe. It is the internal space required in order to let our experiences have an impact on our lives.

 

I know that many have thought of Yom kippur just as a solemn day.And it is right,it has very solemn moments. However Yom Kippur is more than that, Yom Kippur is also the reaffirmation of our covenant with our lives and the celebration of our, sometimes painful, opportunity to change!

 

Today is Yom Kippur,our tradition claims that the gates of heaven are open.

The gates are open so we can leave behind the:   

 

I have no regrets!

I am done!

I am set in my ways!

Nothing can surprise me anymore!

I have seen everything!

 

Today we can leave the cage – the places that are depriving us from fully experiencing our lives. Today we can regret and humbly walk away, today we can let the wonder take our lives in a different journey…

Today is yom kippur, is the time of opportunity.We just need the courage to embrace it.

Today is a WONDERful day!

 

What A Wonderful World
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

 

 

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