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SHEMONEH ESREH AS A PATH TO TESHUVA

Roy Neuberger - Jul. 27, 2018


“Va-eschanan…. [and Moshe Rabbeinu] implored Hashem at that time.” (Deuteronomy 3:23)

 

With Tisha B’Av behind us and T’U B’Av upon us, we must express our gratitude for Hashem’s constant mercies. We are still alive, and we are now in the count-down to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is time to prepare our souls for renewal.

 

Moshe Rabbeinu davened (prayed) and we daven. Moshe did not give up and we cannot give up.

 

I thought about something that is consistent with this Season of Repentance, and it occurred to me that I would like to write about this. This is an approach to teshuva (repentance) that connects with the nineteen blessings of Shemoneh Esreh. I would like to explore this as follows.

 

First blessing: this blessing is called “Avos,” but it is really about Hashem Himself, the G-d of the Patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob “rediscovered” G-d, but the blessing itself focuses on Him. There is no repentance if we don’t recognize Hashem’s Existence. That’s where it all begins! My entire personal spiritual reawakening began at the moment (age twenty three) that I discovered Hashem must exist.

 

Second blessing: Techias Hamaisim (Resurrection of the Dead) follows from our discovery of Hashem’s Existence. If we find Hashem, then suddenly we realize we can escape death! I may feel as if I am dead right now, but if Hashem can rescue me from death, there is hope! I now have reason to do teshuva!

 

Third blessing: the sanctity of Hashem’s Name. This is huge, but it seems that Hashem agrees to “come down” to this world and emplace His Presence here (may we see it soon)! That is how the world can become sanctified. We have lost the Holy Temple and the accessibility of His Presence, but it is still possible to come close to Hashem by “praising His Name” on a constant basis. So we now have a path for teshuva. I can also do this.

 

Fourth blessing: We need “da’as,” intelligence, to do this. Hashem gave me a brain and I have to use it. I am here in the world and I recognize that it is empty, tohu vavohu, if I don’t recognize His existence. So the first thing I have to do is use my brains to understand He Exists and figure out how I can find Him.

 

Fifth blessing: So what’s the answer? Teshuva! There is such a thing as saying, “I was wrong!” Wow! And Hashem “desires” that! It’s not so difficult once I realize that I can do it!

 

Sixth blessing: selicha, forgiveness. After we do teshuva, Hashem is going to forgive us! Amazing! That means maybe He will look on me kindly and I am not evil after all! There is hope for me! That is, after all, the theme of this very Shabbos: Nachamu! There can be nechama, consolation in this world!

 

Seventh blessing: “goail Yisroel!” Hashem can save me? Me personally? And He wants to? That is stupendous! I thought it was all hopeless, but now I see that, if He forgives me then He will go one step further and lift me up! Maybe I can do teshuva after all!

 

Eighth blessing: Refuah, healing! No matter what I have wrong with me, spiritually and physically, I see that Hashem can fix literally everything! This gives me so much chizzuk!

 

Ninth blessing: This is “on the ground.” If I do teshuva, Hashem is going to renew the entire world! He’s going to make the entire earth into a paradise again! My teshuva could bring a complete healing to the entire world!

 

Tenth blessing: And this will start a tidal wave! All the exiles will come home! I am so excited! I cannot wait to hear that Shofar Gadol! This is actually attainable!

 

Eleventh blessing: When that happens, the entire world will be run with justice and righteousness. Can you imagine such a world! Everything run according to the Torah!

 

Twelfth blessing: And all the evil ones, the sinners and rebels will cease to be a threat! Those who hate Torah will no longer plague the world! Can you imagine such a beautiful thing! No more fear of evil people who have the power to bring destruction!

 

Thirteenth blessing: The tzaddikim and chassidim, those who love Hashem with all their heart, will be victorious, and the entire world will rely upon Hashem! The righteous ones will no longer be ashamed. There is so much to hope for!

 

Fourteenth blessing: Yerushalayim will be rebuilt! No more desecration of G-d’s Name! It will be the Holy City again in every respect and King David’s throne will be restored!

 

Fifteenth blessing: the “keren yeshua” will be filled with oil and the Prophet will anoint the king! This is none other than Moshiach! There are no words for the greatness of this event!

 

Sixteenth blessing: And then our prayers will go up straight to G-d like the smoke column from the Temple Altar! Nothing will block them! No more Evil Inclination!

 

Seventeenth blessing: The Presence of G-d will return to Tzion! This is the ultimate! The entire world will then be perfect. Truth will shine and evil will be completely vanquished! All the righteous will dance!

 

Eighteenth blessing: Modim! Thank You, Hashem! What can we do but endlessly thank G-d for His kindnesses! All the things we prayed and worked for have come to pass!

 

Nineteenth blessing: Then the world will be at peace! This is the real thing. Not a political deal; not a military truce. Peace will be from Heaven. Just as there is Peace on Shabbos, the entire world will enjoy true Peace forever. “They will sit, each man under his vine and under his fig tree and none will make them afraid….” (Micah 4:4)


 

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