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Repentance: Connecting to the Promise of the Future

We are now in the month of Elul and a period devoted to teshuvah – repentance – a process which requires us to consider things that have happened in the past. Teshuva, however, is also about connecting to the promise of the future, says Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Spiritual Mentor/Senior Lecturer of Rabbinics and Chassidic Thought at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary.

This week’s Torah reading, Ki Teitzei, offers guidelines for how to do that. We must look at how to overcome our internal battles and restore a spark of holiness in our lives.

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Sometimes I feel that we need to be reading the parasha with the eyes of a mystic.

Otherwise, it’s very difficult to enter into a text that deals with going out to war, with being tempted, with seeing a beautiful woman, with bringing her back to your home…

So I’m going to invite you to join me and to read this parasha with the eyes of the mystic.

What we’re talking about is an internal process, the fact that the Torah begins with a battle that’s not a communal battle. It should, it should say:

כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥או לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יכם

When you go out to war on your enemies (Deuteronomy 21:20).

We’re in the time of the year that people are engaged in an ongoing, reflective process of repentance and I have a lot to say about what that looks like and where compassion comes into this process, and whether it’s a war, whether it’s a battle, how far, to what extent? Those are also questions that we need to be asking ourselves.

Repentance. Is it about a war on what has been? Is it about the future what’s ahead of us?

I seriously believe that there’s a way in which, when thinking about תשובה (repentance), it’s not about regard of the past. It’s actually about connecting to the promise of the future. And here in our parasha we’re given guidelines how to go about that.

We see that moment in our life, a memory perhaps of somewhere that we were, somewhere that we want to be again, and what is it going to take for us to get back to that moment of purity, of holiness, of connection, of alignment, of life?

What does it mean to bring back that divine spark into our homes?

There’s a moment in which it’s true that maybe it could have been different, maybe it could have been other, so let’s strip those layers, the garment, and focus on where we were in the moment that we made those decisions and where are we now and what does that look like and how do we overcome this internal battle?

Because that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about our internal battles and each one of us is different, unique and individual.

I want to offer as well not only the question of what were those battles? Take a moment to look at them. The Torah gives us, from this week and until the holidays, a journey by virtue of the names of the parshiyot (Torah readings).

We go through Ki Teitzei, when you go out. Ki Tavo, what you bring home. Then Nitzavim, Vayeilech, you have to stand with it for a moment. Nitzavim. Then you have to walk with it, Vayeilech.

If you can do that, if you can go out, bring it home, stand with it, walk with it, then you’ll come to Ha’azinu. Then you can listen.

And when you can go through that process, we conclude with V’Zot HaBerachah. We conclude with being able to manifest in the world as a blessing and the journey and the promise begin in our parasha, Ki Teitzei:

כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥א לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ וּנְתָנ֞וֹ יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ בְּיָדֶ֖ךָ

We go out to the war. God promises us that God will give us what we need, the assistance and the help that we need to overcome this battle.

We’ll be able to bring that part of ourselves that got lost through the year, bring her back home and manifest her in the world with blessing.

I bless us all for that journey.

I bless us to walk together in that journey and I wish us all a Shabbat Shalom from Schechter.

Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and  teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.

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