The Power of Teshuva

Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the Shabbat weekly Gilui Da’at:

The Power of Teshuva

“Do you believe her?” – I was asked by a Dayan in the Beit Din in a hearing for a woman who had converted to Islam and now wants to return to Judaism, to come back to Am Israel. “Yes”, I said, “I’ve known her for some time and I was impressed with her. True, she made many mistakes in her life, but now, when a woman wants to make teshuva – who are we to stand in her way?”

True, she went too far and did the worst thing of all, changed her religion and went with the enemy. The family fought her and did everything to save her from a destructive relationship, but nothing helped and the connection between her and her family was broken.

She tasted the taste of sin, and now she wants to make teshuva. And even now that she has returned to Judaism, they are not willing to forgive her. They don’t believe her and her intentions to change the course of her life. This is a sad story that illustrates how easy it is to fall into the hole, but hard to get out of it. It’s not easy to make a change, but it is certainly possible.

As a therapist, and mainly as a believing person, I believe in the power of the individual to create change in his life. Sometimes a person feels helpless, and he is concerned about losing control over his life.

In the serenity prayer, we say:”Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Serenity, courage and wisdom – these are the three necessary characteristics, which if we just know how to implement each one in its right place – we will be privileged to see wonderful things in our lives.

Each person is given the power to influence his own life. Even if the circumstances of his life did not enlighten him, he’s still given the opportunity to change.

We live in a judgmental, critical society that sometimes blocks the way for a person to make teshuva. People make mistakes in their lives. There is no perfect person – the Creator grants each one his own trials, and each person has his own life circumstances that led him to sin. But when a person says ‘I have sinned, I want to fix it’ – this obligates us to accept him and bring him close to Hashem Yitbarach.

Teshuva preceded the world. The desire to make teshuva and to cling to the good and to Divine truth, can always be found in the nature of every person and inwardly. A Jew should always live the reality of teshuva. For there is no righteous person in the world who has not sinned, so how can we reject those Jewish souls who want to return, from the bottom of their hearts? How can we doubt their intentions? How can we come on Yom Kippur and stand before the Creator of the universe to ask for pardon, when we are unwilling to accept those girls who have learned the hard way, the bitter results of the sin and want to come back to us?

“Yes”, I told the Dayan, “I believe her, I believe in her, I believe in the power of every Jew to return to himself and to his G-d”.

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