With the High Holy Days approaching, I’ve been thinking about Teshuva and how I want to observe a day of atonement this year. However, all the guides and resources for this process I’ve come across feel distant, hard to relate to, and lacking in empathy. In other words, not great.
I’m seeking a more supportive, feminine Teshuva experience.
Teshuvah in Hebrew means to repent and chet means to sin. Looking deeper into the etymology and literal meanings of these words, a more nuanced story emerges.
In the Torah, chet appears in reference to a slingshot that “missed the target.” And Teshuva itself literally means to “return.”
This gave me hope that there was a feminine and supportive approach to Teshuva that I could create for myself.
Four Steps to Teshuva, Reframed
- Acknowledge your disappointments (formerly, regret)
- Pause and reflect (formerly, cessation)
- Recognition of the story (formerly, confession)
- Intention setting (formerly, resolution)
Here are some concepts and ideas that might support you in this process, too.
Instead of thinking about what you’ve done “wrong” and internalizing shame about what you have or haven’t accomplished this year, try reframing this as “missing your mark.”
Use this question for reflection: Were there any specific relationships, situations, or areas of your life in which you feel as if you missed the mark this year?
It helps to look deeper at the true needs underneath your behaviors (even those which are misguided and off-mark). For example, gossiping could indicate a real need for more intimacy.
Remember that the goal of Judaism is personal refinement, not self-flagellation.
You Get More Than One Opportunity
Have you ever felt like you only get one chance at forgiveness every year? Or that because you missed the mark on something in the past there’s no point in trying again?
Life is a cyclical thing. We learn new things about ourselves and the world around us each time we go through a process like this.
If it doesn’t feel quite right the first time you do it this year, try Teshuva again a few days or a week later.
If you didn’t reach a goal or intention you set, how can you send forgiveness and compassion to yourself?
Make it Relational
Humans are relational creatures. That’s where we live and learn, and most of us define ourselves by relationships.
So any process where our goal is seeking insight and understanding is made more powerful by sharing it with the right people.
You could try discussing your “missed marks” this year with a trusted friend and then moving into solo reflection—or even the other way around.
The point is to relate and affirm your experience instead of making your experience into a personal failing.
Creating the atmosphere you need this year to support the process of Teshuvah is vital.
See this practice as an opportunity to return to yourself, that vibrant part within you that is infinitely wise.
In the comments, I’d love to know: Are you planning on doing Teshuva this year? What have you found to be the most supportive process for yourself?