The Gift of Teshuva – Returning to You, Returning to (the Real) Me

By Rabbi Eliyahu Weinschneider, Psy.D.

The biggest aveira/sin that weighs heavily on my mind, is not living up to my potential. I believe this is a crime/sin that most of us are somewhat guilty of. (This is not to say that I am otherwise perfect- that would be far, far from the truth. Perfection, however, is for G-d only, and not for mankind). The problem is that I tend to think of myself as an ordinary and normal person, and truth be told, there is no such thing.

Human beings, G-d’s greatest creation, are by definition not “average” or “normal”. There is an inherent, inborn greatness within us all, and our mission in life is to actualize our potential.
When I was younger and would look at a globe, I would think of the North Pole and South Pole of Earth as very specific, small spots that could be pinpointed with a stick and flag to demark the exact location of the pole, down to the inch. It was years later that I realized that the North Pole is an area that spans miles upon miles of ice.

When we think of the word “normal”, it is important to expand our view, and realize that normal is a range, and just because our friend, relative or neighbor is different than us, it doesn’t by default mean that one of us must be abnormal. Most, most people that you meet are within the range of normal.

But again, not really. Yes, most people are what we consider normal, average or ordinary, but we all have what it takes to be EXTRAordinary- it just requires a little “extra”.

Inside every person lies greatness. We are all part spiritual- a pure neshama, G-dliness, and part physical-animalistic, hedonistic. When we identify more strongly with our neshama, and recognize that our physicality is secondary, we can then take the incredible gifts that each of us are endowed with, utilize them to the best of our ability, and embark on a journey that takes us from ordinary to extraordinary.

There is a part of us that subconsciously knows and recognizes the inherent truth in the above assertions, and when we are distant from our ideals, goals, and values; when we feel stuck and unmotivated to thrive, there is a sadness that permeates our soul, and it becomes a pervasive low-level depression, a feeling of stuckedness, heaviness.

In order for us to be truly happy with ourselves, we do not need to be perfect, but we do need to feel momentum, that we are on the path of growth, the path to greatness.

The gift of Teshuva is one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us, one that defies logic and the laws of nature. It is an opportunity for us to fully return to who we really are, to feel good again about the life that we are living, and to shift our lives from an ordinary, muddling along lifestyle, to an energizing, powerful, fully-alive way of living.

How do we embark on this journey?

There are a few steps involved, but what the word teshuva means, and what is all starts with is: “lashuv el Hashem b’chol lebo obechol nafsho” a firm resolution to return to Hashem, to be close to Hashem- and by definition, to affiliate ourselves more with the G-dliness that lies within us all.

The word “resolution” gets a lot of flak in our society, as it is associates with non-achievable dreams, aspirations that seem to puff into thin air. On Yom Kippur we make a sincere resolution to be completely attached to Hashem, to say every bracha and amein with kavana, every word of prayer with intention and devotion, yet struggle to maintain that through maariv on motzei Yom Kippur.

Lehavdil, people make New Year’s resolutions, and they rarely seem to come to fruition. Why?
The word “want”, as in “I want to lose ten pounds”, is another word that suffers much abuse and misuse. Usually when people use the word “I want”, they mean “I wish”. “I want to become a millionaire”, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to be a better Jew/person/spouse”- they are wishful, wistful, dreamy aspirations that seems forever out of reach.

When someone really, truly WANTS something, has a sincere, burning desire, and awakens their powerful Koach HaRatzon, turns to Hashem and says: “I WANT this with all my heart and soul (what chazal refer to as Isarusa D’letasah), and I am fully committed do whatever steps are necessary to get there”, Hashem does His part, turns on that Siyata D’shmaya, that Isarusa D’layla, and truly incredible changes begin to occur. As the Gemara in Makos (10b) states, “B’derech sh’adam rotzeh lalech, molichin oso- on the path that a person wants to go, he is so led.”

While it is true that deep desire to change, and to strive toward our potential, is not enough in and of itself, it is the necessary catalyst for change. We still need to recognize what is not going well with our current plan/direction, come up with an actionable, corrective course of action, and then embark on a new journey/course towards our desired goals.

May we all find the inner-strength and resolve to courageously embark on the path of teshuva, the path that leads to extraordinary growth and happiness.

Rabbi Eliyahu Weinschneider is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice and can be reached at

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