A Drash for Rosh HaShannah 5769 (2008)
by Marc Mangel
Today we wish each other a good and sweet year, and in another 10 days, that we will be inscribed in the book of life. Teshuvah is the means by which we can achieve these.
Teshuvah means to return, not to repent for which there is a different word in Hebrew (charatah). Just how do we return and get closer to God, rather than only repent?
To be sure, we all can look back on last year and repent the mistakes that we have made. This is, in fact, one leg of the stool of Teshuvah.
We can also look back at the mitzvoth we completed but did not complete with intention and attention but rather did mechanically or in a rush or half-heartedly. This too is repentance and is the second leg of the stool of Teshuvah.
The third leg of the stool of Teshuvah is the mitzvot that we will do in the coming year (and years).
The sages teach that the intention and attention – thinking about a mitzvah and its meaning – provides the spirituality of the mitzvah and the performance of mitzvah itself provides the connection to essence of God.
The third leg of the stool of Teshuvah is all the mitvot that we will perform – with intention and attention– in this coming year.
An example: Tzedaka means righteousness or justice, not charity for which there is a different word in Hebrew .
We can give Tzedaka in a mindless manner (just writing the check because it is the first of the month) or a begrudging manner — or we can give it with intention and attention as a duty to God and as justice to those who are in need. And it is with the latter that writing the check becomes Teshuvah.
May we all have a good and sweet year, made so by recognizing that every moment is a mitvah moment and that the mitva performed with intention and attention and is the one bringing us closer to God.