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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Rewriting the Past

By Jonathan Rosenblum

Did you ever wonder how Divine forgiveness works? Here's a profound explanation for serious students of theology




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Bar Ilan University Milton scholar William Kolbrener has a profound meditation on Yom Kippur and teshuva (repentance) in his new collection of essays, Open Minded Torah.

In the Jewish view, the possibility of teshuva was implanted in the Creation even before the beginning of time, for without the possibility of teshuva mankind could not exist. But man is not the passive recipient of a Divine dispensation. He is the key actor in the teshuva process. That is nicely captured in Rabbi Akiva's image of the Divine as the Mikve (purifying waters) in which the penitent Israel immerses. The Divine creates the conditions that make purification of sins possible, but it is man who is the active agent and must immerse himself.

Rosh Hashanah brings us back to the beginning of human history — to the Divine breath, the nishmas chayim (breath of life) that the Creator blew into Adam's nostrils. The blasts of the Shofar recall that moment of literal Divine inspiration. They also recall the unformulated cry of a baby that precedes words, the cry of a human soul first becoming aware of its own existence.

The holiday bids us to reconnect with the holy, the elevated, the spiritual within us. It reminds us that our essence is the breath of the Divine, with which human history begins. In that process of reconnection, we inevitably become aware, as well, of how far we have strayed from the path of holiness and the extent to which the yetzer hara (Evil Inclination), which entered into us when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, has established itself as a false god inside and has caused that which is most essential — our connection to the Divine — to become hidden.

Thus the Ten Days of Repentance begin with striving to attain a vision of ourselves as spiritual beings connected through the element of the Divine within us to the source of all holiness. To the extent we are connected, we feel ourselves to be truly alive. In the blessing after the reading of the Torah, we thank the Creator for "the eternal life He planted in us" — now, in this world. And to the extent that we have lost that connection we are dead, even if we still ambulate about: "The wicked are called dead even in their lifetimes," say our Sages.


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Only with that vision in front of us can we begin the arduous path of teshuva culminating in Yom Kippur. First, we must determine what is essential about us, and what is extraneous; what is us, and what are just external cloaks that we happen to have donned. Only when we can identify our soiled garments can we begin the process of cleansing. That cleansing requires both rigorous stock-taking of our past actions, and a concrete plan for rectifying the behavioral patterns into which we have fallen. Ideally, that process should begin already in the month of Elul, preceding the Days of Awe, and culminates in the Ten Days of Repentance leading up to Yom Kippur.

The goal of that cleansing is to draw as close to the Divine as possible. According to many of the earlier commentators, there is not even a mitzvah (religious duty) of teshuva, though the verse, "And you shall (alternatively, will) return unto the Lord, your G0d . . . " (Deuteronomy 30:2) can be read to imply otherwise. One can respond positively to a command for many reasons — e.g., in the hope of reward, out of a fear of punishment. But the highest level of teshuva has nothing to do with such external incentives. Rather it is an expression of pain at the thought of being cut off the Divine, and thereby alienated from that which is holy and spiritual within us, an expression of our desire for connection.

My friend Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman of Passaic, New Jersey relates a story from one of the shiva (mourning) houses he visited after 9/11 that captures the difference between doing the Divine's Will and fulfilling His commandment.

The family was sitting together mourning their husband and father, when a young girl said to her mother. "Mommy, do you remember how the night before Abba [Dad] was killed, you came home late. Abba plopped down in his chair, and he looked so tired. Then he said, 'I'm so thirsty. Who wants to bring me a glass of water, with a little ice in it.' I got up and ran to the kitchen, and brought back the water and ice. When I handed it to Abba, he said, 'Malky, you have no idea how happy you made me," and smiled at me. Those were the last words he ever said to me."

The young girl found comfort in the fact that her last memory of her father was of giving him pleasure. Her father had not commanded her or any of her siblings to do anything. He had only asked who wanted to help. And out of a desire to do her father's will and a feeling of closeness to him, she had rushed to do so. That is what it means when we describe teshuva as doing the will of the Divine, not as fulfilling a commandment.

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Almighty draws close to us, say our Sages, quoting the verse, "Seek the Lord when He is found, call Him when He is near" (Isaiah 45:6). He makes Himself available for a relationship to a greater degree than any time in the year. That once a year opportunity is filled with immense potential, but also with danger. For if we do not avail ourselves of the opportunity, we have not just missed an opportunity and remained in the same spiritual state as before. We have, as it were, spurned the Almighty.

That explains a problem in Maimonides' Laws of Repentance. Maimonides instructs us to always view ourselves as in a state of equipoise with our merits and transgressions, indeed the merits and transgressions of the entire world, evenly balanced, such that one more mitzvah can tip the balance of the entire world favorably. But during the Tens Days of Repentance, he writes, to be inscribed in the Book of Life one must do teshuva — one more mitzvah will not suffice. That is because the failure to seek a relationship with the Divine, and to uncover the holiness within us, at this time of the year, constitutes an explicit rejection of the Divine, and no amount of additional mitzvos or good deeds can counterbalance that rejection.

But when one longs for that relationship, and makes the effort to reciprocate the Divine's drawing close to us, he has the power to rewrite the past — at least with respect to sins between himself and his Creator — and his past sins are accounted as if they were mitzvos and good deeds.

Recently, one of the most elevated people I ever knew passed away in his fiftieth year, after a three-and-a-half year battle with leukemia. After his passing, his wife found his vidui (confessional) prayer. He did not grow up in a religious home, and only found his way to observance in his late teens. In his vidui, there is an enumeration of past sins, both before and after becoming observant, concluding with the words: "I wanted to do these things. I chose them. Now I don't want them. I'm choosing closeness to G0d; I'm choosing life."

That is an example of the teshuva from love that has the power to transform past sins into mitzvos and good deeds, by using the regret over the past, expressed through confession in the present, to transform our behavior for the future.

Kolbrener describes the process beautifully, in words upon which I cannot hope to improve:


"The retrospective glance reveals that my undignified past and willful transgressions are not only consistent with, but they have actually propelled me toward, a future which I had not imagined. Actions I thought had most distanced me from G0d now bring me close to Him. Refined by the image of my ideal self, my past misdeeds, reclaimed as my own, shape my present so that they now have the power to help me realize an ideal future. I am no longer stuck with either obsessing about my past or abandoning it — both are choices of the nonintegrated self. Moving toward the future, the past recast in its light, my present is transformed. Through the power of teshuva transgressions become good deeds: they are the source of a new and altered life, and only through them, in the words of the prophet, do we live."

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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of Jewish Media Resources and a widely-read columnist for the Jerusalem Post's domestic and international editions and for the Hebrew daily Maariv. He is also a respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel. His articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School. Rosenblum lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children.






© 2011, Jonathan Rosenblum