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Rabbi Mitch's Weekly Teachings

Weekly Teaching 9/19/2014


As we approach our High Holidays we are mindful of our desire to do teshuvah.  Teshuvah is our “true repentance” from sin.  We believe that we can only acquire complete harmony within our body, mind and soul if we live a life in which we haven’t distanced ourselves from God or other people because of sin; intentional or unintentional. 

While we focus on teshuvah during the High Holidays, we really hope to ask for forgiveness for our sins each and every day.

The process for successful teshuvah is to remember the 4 R’s:

  • Recognition 
  • Remorse
  • Reconciliation
  • (Don’t) Repeat

The first step for teshuvah is to recognize the wrongs we have committed. 

The second step is to feel remorse for our wrongs.

The third step is to share our remorse with whom we have sinned against, whether it is God or other person(s).  With our remorse we offer to make amends and reconcile the relationship.

The fourth and final step assures that we avoid repeating the sinful behavior and is the most important and usually the most difficult step.  If a sin is repeated then the sincerity of the original intentions are questionable and the sinning behavior can feel even graver after breaking the promise and repeating the bad behavior.

Habits are very hard to break.  Acting our way into a correct behavior is a sound religious and psychological approach; however, if the intention isn’t really and truly within our mind we risk failure.

Judaism, in most cases, doesn’t believe in “thought crime”.  We are judged by our actions however, the rabbis make it abundantly clear that lack of intention will ultimately diminish our willingness to pursue the desired course of action.

The reason for the High Holidays is to set aside time within a sacred space to address intentionality.  We sit together in communal prayer and take the time for intense personal introspection.  We feel safer doing this because we know that everyone else is supposed to do the same.  The High Holiday liturgy prompts our self-examination.  Then we recognize and cultivate our new way of thinking, even before we proceed to the four R’s. 

Meaningful intentionality allows us to realize that what we think does make us who we are.  If we wish to change a behavior, we have to change our thoughts. 

God allows “U-Turns” is the permissive sign, but the willingness to respond to the sign comes with our intentionality.  We have to decide to take that “U-Turn”.  Thoughts and feelings can be internally guided by us with a committed mindfulness.  We can have dialectical feelings; contrary feelings that can all feel true; but we choose which feelings to act upon.  This choice begins within the mind and then is acted out.  The repetition of the correct behavior reinforces the good intentions, but the good intentions keep us motivated to pursue the sacred actions.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mitch 


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