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INSIGHT OUT by Adina Morris

I was up late last night, again, cooking for Yom Tov, after a long day of cleaning. When I woke up this morning, I decided that I needed to air out before starting the process of cooking and cleaning all over again. I texted my husband, who was up before me, and said “want to take a walk?” He said “sure.” And off we went. My husband and I headed down the block while keeping our distance from anyone else out on this sunny morning. As we approached the end of our block, we saw our neighbor, who was out with her son taking a walk. We stopped, from a distance, to say hello and asked how she was holding up. She seemed down and so I enquired further. Several people from her community had died in the last few days and it is taking its toll on all of them. After offering our heartfelt condolences to her and wishing her strength and good health for her, her family and her community, we continued on our walk.

I began to speak with my husband about what our lives have looked like in the last few weeks. Limited social interactions, limited excursions, kids home all day, both of us working from home overtime, fear for those who are vulnerable and in need. The list went on and on.

And then I said to my husband the following. We can only do so much you know. He asked what I meant. I said that we can follow all the rules and stay home to stay safe and keep the kids home and only go out for essentials and to follow protocols, but at the end of the day, if Hashem chooses for us to get sick or Chas V’Shalom worse, we will.

A sobering thought for sure, yet an empowering one indeed. How so you ask? We know from our tradition that Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakkah (charity) can tear up evil decrees. As individuals and as communities we have been non stop beseeching Hashem for mercy. We have been praying for all the sick people and all of the health care providers. We have participated in millions of acts of kindness and charity for our fellow community members the world over. And people are recovering! Many are being discharged and sent home to recuperate. But sadly there are still many who are sick and many Rachmana Latzlan, dying.

So what can we do for added Shemirah, protection?

There is one piece in the process of tearing up an evil decree that perhaps we have not yet focused on. And that is personal Repentance, Teshuva.

Are we taking a good look in the mirror? Maybe as of late, you haven’t been looking in the mirror as often since you aren’t going out much. But now more than ever, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror. What are we seeing? Yes, we have done many good deeds and continue to work on forging a connection with Hashem. But what about our Middos, character traits? This is often looked at last or not at all. Me? What do I need to work on? 

Each one of us was brought into this world for two reasons. 

One is to contribute in some way to the continuity of the ever playing out story of the Jewish people. We each have a role to play. Some play larger roles and others have smaller parts, but each is equally important in the grand tapestry of the history of the Jews. Without your contribution, we would not be complete. (we can talk about this at a later date)

The second reason we are brought into this world, is to affect a change or Tikkun in our own selves, our middos and how we relate to Hashem and his commandments. What Middah do I need to work on? Some of you may think, hey, I am a pretty good person, what are you referring to? So for the record, I am talking to myself, first and foremost. Anyone else listening in who can gain from this, I am grateful for. 

Yes, I am a good person and I can list many things that I excel at and can even say I feel pretty good about my record of achievement. But where am I lacking? Where am I deficient? This only works if you are willing to really look deep within yourself. You will know what it is when you find it. For me, it is something that is a lifelong struggle that I am constantly working on. Some days I am more successful than others. 

The Rambam lists the four step process of Teshuva.

  1. Stopping to sin
  2. Regret for wrongdoing
  3. Orally confess before Hashem
  4. Accept for the future that you intend to never do this again

We can’t undo what has already been done, however, we can be like Dovid Hamelech (King David), who is the paradigm of Repentance, say Chatasi, I have sinned. But the Teshuva process is not about affecting change in an instant. And we will make mistakes and possibly sin again. However, with our awareness and commitment to keep trying to do better and committing to getting up again after we fall down, slowly over time we will see change. And because of this commitment Hashem accepts our Teshuva just from the very first four steps, even before we have accomplished it, as long as we are sincere and genuine in our repentance for our wrongdoing and commitment to continue to work on it all of our lives.

It is true, we can’t stop the virus, we can only do our part to stay safe and the rest is in Hashem’s hands. But there is something else we can do. We see the power of Tefillah and Tzedakah to heal so many who have been afflicted. Hashem is actively tearing up evil decrees before our very eyes.  But there is even more that we can be doing and perhaps must be doing to protect ourselves. We can engage in a real Teshuva process. This will be a true Shmirah, protection, for us on the night of protection, the Seder night.

This plague is a wake up call for all of us. We are commanded to feel as if we personally participate in the Exodus each year. This year in 5780, we are truly in unprecedented times. We are in a state of fear for the future and anticipation for the very redemption we have longed for for thousands of years. 

We are all in need of doing Teshuva, repentance, affecting impactful change and asking for mercy from Hashem. 

May this be the final wake up call for Klal Yisroel. May we heed the call and complete the process of tearing up all the evil decrees for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, and may Hashem herald in the Mashiach Tzidkeinu this very Zman Geulaseinu (Time of Redemption).