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Teshuva: Returning to Ourselves

By Ari Rabbi Gelernter

One of the Psukim we read during the Mussaf service on Rosh HaShana is
לֹא הִבִּיט אָוֶן בְּיַעֲקֹב וְלֹא רָאָה עָמָל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וּתְרוּעַת מֶלֶךְ בּוֹ
He does not look at evil in Jacob, and has seen no perversity in Israel; the Lord, his G-d, is with him, and he has the King’s friendship.

How can it be that Hashem averts looking at evil among the Jews? Isn’t G-d our judge? How can we read this on Rosh Hashana when we are being judged for all of our deeds for the past year?

The great Bible commentator Ohr Hachaim (1696-1743) answers this question with an important insight into Repentance. He highlights that the verse says G-d doesn’t see evil בְּיַעֲקֹב and בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל – in Jacob and in Israel. Why is this important? We can see this concept in the Talmudic dictum, “When a person sins, a wind of insanity transpires inside of him.” The evil inclination is able to penetrate man’s conscience and manipulate him to perform acts of iniquity. The verse teaches us that G-d sees the actions of man as something external from man himself and therefore He judges him favorably.

The word תשובה has roots in the word שב (“to return”). Generally we define תשובה as returning to G-d, especially reconnecting with Him during the High Holidays when we tap the power of the תְרוּעַה. The Ohr Hachaim is emphasizing that true repentance is returning to ourselves. This is accomplished by contemplation and introspection about ourselves. A person must realize that all of his desires that caused him to sin are not the true him, but rather a manifestation of the evil inclination. At the core of every Jew is total goodness and a pure heart.

When a person realizes this and works on improving it, then G-d does his part and judges us favorably by not looking at the evil as part of Jacob/Israel. No matter what flawed actions we took over the past year, G-d is “עִמּוֹ” – with us – and awaits our return.

You Can Reach Your Destination, But Only If You Set Your Course

By Michael Levin

Earl Nightingale was the founder of the modern personal development field.

He used to say that you could approach a ship captain in a harbor and ask him how he would reach his next destination.

The captain could explain the exactly how he would get there, even though he would not see land for 97% of his journey.

That’s because he knows that as long as he does the same simple things each day, he will get where he wants to go.

It’s the same with us.

If we know where we want to go, and do the same simple things every day, we will get there…even though we don’t see our destinations until close to the end of the journey.

Of course, if we don’t set goals – if we don’t choose our next destination, like the ship captain – it’s all too easy just to drift.

Sometimes we half-heartedly set a goal.

But we don’t put much effort into reaching it, because if we try hard and fail, well, that’s worse than never having tried at all.

In reality, most successful people set goals.

They set goals for their physical well-being, their relationships, their spiritual lives, their intellectual development, their income, their athletic goals, and any other areas in which they are striving for success or even greatness.

This is not to suggest that life is strictly about setting and reaching goals.

But unless we set targets, we typically never get anywhere.

And now, here comes a new Jewish year.

Are our goals bigger than “just getting through the day”?

They should be.

Earl Nightingale offers this definition of a successful life: “A committed effort toward the achievement of worthy goals.”

He also quotes the Spanish writer Cervantes by saying, “The road is always better than the inn.”

Meaning that the process of going after a goal is often more satisfying than achieving the goal itself.

This is human nature, he says, and not a fault within it that needs to be uprooted.

His suggestion: Once the fulfillment of a goal is in sight, it’s time to set a new goal.

Our lives are like that of the ship captain in Nightingale’s story—once we set a course, we know that if we do the same simple things every day, we will indeed reach our destination.

If our goals are indeed worthy, we can expect help from Heaven.

I hope that you set and achieve goals that stretch you in every way in this coming year, and as you approach success with each of those goals, I hope you set new ones that stretch you further still.

Michael Levin is a New York Times best selling author, the CEO of, a provider of ghostwritten business books and memoirs, and the father of two students at YOY.