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Can we change the past? - Yom Kippur

Friday, 10 September, 2021 - 9:36 am

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The 10 Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the “10 Days of Teshuva”. Teshuva means repentance and return to G-d. G-d is very near us during these days and it is an ideal opportunity for Teshuva.

How is it done? Can we rewrite the history and the past?

There are two ways with which G-d governs our world: through His names “Elo-him” and “Hava-ya”. The name “Elo-him” is the regular, natural rule in the world: time and space are differentiated. I cannot be simultaneously on Monday and Thursday in Athens and Larissa. On the other hand, the name “Hava-ya” is higher and beyond time and space. They are creations of G-d and He is therefore is not limited by them.

Normally, when we connect to G-d through the name “Elo-im”, we have the freedom of choice only regarding our future. Our past is already determined.

But when we make a proper Teshuva, we connect to G-d through the name “Hava-ya”, which means that we go beyond the limits of time. That is, we have the possibility to influence not only our future but also our past.  

How does it happen exactly? For example, if someone killed someone else, will the Teshuva make the dead person come back to life? No. The past will not change, but we will be able to see it in a different way, to give it a different meaning.

Basically, what is the problematic part of the killing? Is it the result, i.e the death of the victim? No. Only G-d decides how long each person will live. G-d had decided that this person would die. But no one asked the murderer to do it. Since he chose to do it from his free will, he must be punished. But the victim would have died anyway at this exact moment.

Then, is the problematic part the action in itself, i.e the killing? No. Sometimes, this very action constitutes our obligation, for instance, in case of self-defense or to defend others in danger.

The problem is the intention of the killer. At the specific moment, he did something that was contrary to G-d’s will. It was a moment when he “disconnected” from G-d.

This is something that we can change with a true and deep Teshuva that originates from a great love towards G-d. When connecting to the name “Hava-ya” which is beyond time, the sinner can change the intention and the meaning of his act. In this case, the sin is transformed into something that amplifies and deepens his yearning for G-d, something that pushes him to become a better person. Metaphorically, the Teshuva transforms the sin into “fuel” for becoming closer to G-d. It is not anymore, a moment when he was disconnected from G-d, but a significant moment that strengthened his connection to G-d.

Let us imagine for instance, that the person understood the severity of his action and establishes an institution that saves many lives. The action in his past has now a different meaning, since thanks to his Teshuva, many people were saved. (This is in addition to the appropriate punishment for his crime and compensation for the victims).

It is not easy to accomplish such a deep Teshuva, but we can all try. Let us take our sins from the past and utilize them as motivation and energy to do more good deeds.

Gmar Chatima Tova Leshana Tova Umetuka,

Hanna

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