We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Taking A Deeper Look - Chodesh Elul Lesson
Teshuva in our Interpersonal Relationships and Peace of Mind
The month of Elul brings a feeling of teshuva and the urge to start again. Waking to the sound of the shofar reminds us that even though we may be in a spiritual slumber and are hazy about our purpose, with the arrival of Elul comes the possibility for renewed focus and intent. Now is the time to pinpoint our goals for the year and structure a game plan to prove to HaShem that being written and sealed in the Sefer HaChaim (book of life) along with the changes we plan to implement is who we truly are. Many mistakenly believe that through correcting our relationship with HaShem we fulfill the requirements of the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe). They forget that in order to acquire complete teshuva, we must be cognizant of the fact that HaShem forgives us for our mistakes with others not only through doing teshuva while standing before Him, but also by improving our middos through the interactions with others and apologizing when necessary.
Teshuva is not possible without real intent on perfecting our character. The perfecting of one’s middos can not be achieved without full, clear knowledge of the detailed halachos of mitzvos bain adam lachavayiro.
Knowledge of these halachos has an added advantage. When we learn the details of the mitzvos bain adam lachavayiro and keep them, we benefit from the dividends of our actions in this world and will still have the principal left in the World to Come. When we exercise personal discipline and learn to let our minds rule our emotions, we find ourselves enjoying a peaceful life, filled with calmness and joy, and untainted by anger and jealousy. Doubts and pangs of conscience do not plague us, since we know we are doing what is right in each situation. For example, when we meticulously observe the mitzvos of “Lo Sikom, Do not take revenge” and “Lo Sitor, Do not bear a grudge”, we know how and when we are permitted to keep a safe distance from another person. At the same time, we know what our obligations are in terms of continuing to cheerfully do chessed even for someone who aggravates us and hurts us time and again. By subjecting ourselves to the rule of halacha, we not only succeed in “swallowing our words” but we learn to restrain ourselves even from feeling unpleasant feelings toward others.
Thus, not only is the general goal of bringing peace to the world accomplished through these mitzvos; the individual himself is transformed into one who is “strong, who subdues his personal inclination” who is a master of self-control.
The goal of peace accomplished through proper observance of mitzvos bain adam lachavayro is an invaluable objective in itself. HaShem holds peace to be so dear that He allows His Holy Name to be erased in the case of the sotah, the wife suspected of unfaithfulness, for the sake of making peace between man and his wife. Peace is so great that the entire Torah was given for the purpose of bringing peace to the world, as the passuk states (Mishlei 3:17), D’racheha darchei noam, v’chol n’seevoseha shalom -- “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all of its pathways are peace.”
The purpose of the mitzvos bain adam lechavayro is to restore us to the recognition that we are “as one man, with one heart.” The sefarim hakedoshim write that HaShem is One and His Name is One, and therefore His Shechina can rest only in a place of unity. May we be zo’che to be among those who bring peace to HaShem’s world and restore the Shechina to its rightful dwelling place.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
My son “mistakenly” pocketed one of his friend’s toys while at a play date. I didn’t know about this until a week later, while putting him to sleep, he mentioned that he wanted talk to me. I could tell something was on his mind and encouraged him to discuss it. He said that while playing at his friend’s house he found a toy he really liked and half knowingly and half in a daze, slipped the item into his pocket to consider bringing it home to play with at our house. His intent wasn’t to actual “steal” but rather to think about whether he would take it or not. By the time he got home and was putting on his pajamas he felt the toy in his pocket and realized that he actually did take it without his friend’s permission. He felt guilty about this because he hadn’t totally intended to take the toy without permission but because of his ambivalence, it ended up happening. I didn’t want to make him feel as guilty as he looked so I dismissed it by saying that he just made a mistake and we could drop off the toy the following day. The next day arrived and I forgot and my son couldn’t muster up the strength to remind me. He knew he would need to face his friend and tell him he took it. A week later we devised a plan to drop it off in the boy’s mailbox without anyone realizing what actually happened. I forgot about it again and my son was in no hurry to remind me. A few months later, my son reminded me that he still hadn’t dealt with the problem and in the meantime had lost the toy he had taken. We went to the store to buy the toy with the intention to return it later that day. I had a busy day and it didn’t happen again. A few more months passed and my son said, “Mommy, y’know that toy I took from my friend? We still didn’t return it.” Pangs of guilt ran through my consciousness for not helping him acquire closure on this incident for so long. We hopped drop it off in the mailbox and let his friend discover a “surprise” gift without knowing where it came from or should we face the friend and give it back in his hand? With great trepidation my son decided that he would knock on the door and when his friend answered he would hand it to him and say that he accidentally took it home a while ago and just forgot to return it. This is exactly what happened. When my son ran back into the car, I can’t describe the aura of relief and joy on his face. In his own little way, my son had done teshuva on something that had been weighing on his mind for over a year. I looked at him and asked “Doing the right thing sometimes can be really hard but doesn’t it feel good?”
“Uh huh!” was the only reply but the look on his face said it all. As funny as it sounds, I actually found myself being a little jealous of his experience and felt the desire to go home and take Chodesh Elul much more seriously.
Discussion Question Options:
Is it easier doing teshuva regarding issues between man and HaShem or man and man? Which should be harder?
Can you remember a time when you apologized or corrected a relationship situation? How did you feel?
If doing teshuva feels so good, why do we clam up and hesitate to do it again?
Stretch of the Week:
Apologize to someone you have wronged and notice the sense of relief you feel in doing the right thing.