Educationally Speaking – September 2019

Time for T’shuvah

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

As we begin our preparations for a new school year months before school begins, there is another masterpiece of timing that is commencing shortly.

We are about to celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days. These days, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur mark a culmination of personal and communal growth called the Days of Awe. The yearning to becoming our best selves.

The process for becoming our best selves is complex. It has to do with righting our mistakes towards others, towards ourselves, and towards God. I am reminded of a few things when I start the process of becoming my best self. The Hebrew word t’shuvah is this process and it takes on many English definitions: repentance, atonement, returning, and apologizing. It spurns questions that require introspection, inspection, and action.

What happens if the person I am trying to right a wrong towards will not accept my t’shuvah?

If I have made a mistake I regret, can I do t’shuvah if I make the same mistake again?

If I am wronged, should I bring it up to someone who did it to me if the wrong was long ago?

Should I do something to get ahead that is cheating if no one will ever find out?

How can I improve myself?

Is it ever possible to say I have learned enough when we have as our goal to make lifelong learners of our students? Is it possible to say in our lives that we are good enough and don’t need to do any more mitzvot? Of course not, because both should be ongoing processes.

We set aside this special time of the year for t’shuvah because we imagine the world celebrating an anniversary, God starting another year, and ourselves celebrating another year as part of the world. This celebration of existence is not limited to a set time of the year. Judaism calls for t’shuvah every day of the year, but during the High Holy Days we seek t’shuvah as a unit saying we, instead of I.

The wisdom of our ancestors amazes me. It anticipated the problems of a person separating himself or herself from community and wanting instant action. T’shuvah for the High Holy Days starts a month before Rosh HaShanah. The process is complex, just as having a temple-based religious school is complex.

For t’shuvah, our community gathers to provide those same elements. As we look inwards, outwards, and into Creation, may our learning at school and beyond transform us, and may our practice of t’shuvah also transform us into our best selves.

May we be blessed with a year of sweetness, life, Torah, health, prosperity, and peace!