How Can We Change?

“Be tamim (wholesome or simple) before HaShem your God.”

On this verse, Rashi explains that one should conduct himself before God with simplicity, looking to Him dependently. One should accept whatever happens with utter simplicity. Rashi ends with a golden guarantee: “Then you will be together with Him and a part of His portion.”

As we count down the days to Rosh HaShanah, our entire focus and desire is to be reckoned as a part of God’s portion in the New Year for a year of good health, livelihood and nachas. We strive and wish to amend our ways and to perfect our actions. But often the entire process leaves us stressed out. Our need for perfection is overwhelming and we may feel our life is nothing but a blown opportunity. We want this year to be different, we want our lives to be different. What can we do?

We hope and pray every day that we witness the “complete redemption.” What is the difference between the complete redemption and the redemption from Egypt? When we were redeemed from Egypt, we reached incredible spiritual heights, culminating in the receiving of the Torah. But afterward we transgressed what was written in the Torah. From where can we now take strength? Even if a person tries to motivate himself and pick himself up, our Rabbis teach that one who is greater than his friend also possesses a greater yetzer hara (evil urge). Now that he is at a higher level, he possesses an even more difficult challenge than before!

The difference between those who succeed in teshuvah (repentance) and those who fall away is actually the difference between the redemption from Egypt and the complete redemption. Just as there are Five Books of the Torah, so too did Mashiach’s ancestor King David write five parallel books of Psalms. Rebbe Nachman reveals that the Mashiach will conquer the world through the ultimate weapon: prayer. If the first redemption was one of Torah, the final redemption of David will be one of prayer.

God is to be found everywhere and in every situation. We don’t have to recreate ourselves in a perfect mold or set up the perfect situation in order to begin to do teshuvah. Teshuvah means looking within ourselves and discovering God right here and right now. Even if we feel as if we have been written out of the Torah, through words of prayer and supplication we can reach out and attach ourselves to God. Our feeling of distance can even be used to create the sweetest prayers in the world.

King David therefore says, “Instead of my love, they prosecute me – but I am prayer!” (Psalms 109:4). The more David sought to motivate himself and draw himself closer to God, the higher the level he reached and the more the yetzer hara prosecuted him. But because he personified prayer, he ultimately succeeded in writing the five books of Psalms. David’s Psalms are the revelation that no matter how badly he was persecuted and shunned, through simple faith and prayer he could always find God and hopefulness. Only through this special, intimate connection can we, too, return to God and rekindle a life of Torah and mitzvot.

This is the prescription for living a life of simplicity and faith. If we want to succeed at teshuvah, we need not turn our lives upside down and stress out about living an altogether different life. Rather, we should learn to look for God in our lives right now, to talk and relate everything to Him, with the firm hope of betterment. By attaching ourselves directly to God, ultimately nothing can stand in our way and we can rise above life’s daily grind to live a life of meaning and joy. Amen!

Based on Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Onaah 3

Author: Yossi Katz

Yossi Katz currently lives in Lakewood, NJ where he runs the BRI American Office. He studied in Beth Medrash Gevoha, as well as the former Breslov Kollel of Lakewood headed by Rabbi Shlomo Goldman.

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