Returning explores the boundaries between right and wrong, choice and choicelessness—and what happens when we cross those boundaries. It challenges notions of black and white, and calls into question the sovereignty of death itself.
Can we do T’shuvah for acts committed under compulsion? Even in the absence of responsibility, the need for atonement can be met. We feel contaminated by being brought to the point of ultimate helplessness, but healing comes from our learning to take responsibility for our own lives from this point on. We feel guilty for living through our own deaths, but healing comes from the ability to partake of life and give life as much and as selflessly as possible. Should a person be denied the healing of T’shuvah, just because he isn’t guilty?
The deception of his brother and his father must have weighed heavily on him. For nearly two decades he has lived away from home; ample time for the event to magnify itself in his mind and become a fixation. What else could I have done? He knows that he did wrong. He also knows that it was necessitated by the situation.
Teshuvah means it is never too late! We always have the option of stepping outside of time, of finding the one thread that needs to be pulled to change our course. We have an innate ability to bend time to our will. If ever there was a season to prove it, it is now!
The Torah calls attention to two dangers facing the Israelites in their encounter with Moav. The first is the danger of cultural assimilation. A clash of cultures need not involve active enmity; it is possible for a culture to succumb to too much love just as surely as to oppression. But there is a second danger as well: that of moral degradation. Israel’s encounter with Moav involved both of these pitfalls and resulted in a rift between the two nations that would not be healed for generations.
Free download: Discussion topics on T’shuvah as healing. Returning: Reflections & Resources on Teshuvah explores some of the difficulties and dilemmas facing those who seek to heal the wounds of their own souls—especially self-inflicted wounds. These topics are explored through a series of dialogues between a former member of the Birkenau Sonderkommando and a rabbi.
Tisha b’Av is an intentionally triggered “national flashback”. Any survivor will tell you that the anniversary of a traumatic event is the time when one is most likely to relive it. Rather than trying to “get over it”, we allow ourselves to acknowledge the loss. We acknowledge that there are some things that we should not just “get over”.
In a new review of A Damaged Mirror, therapist Sheri Oz writes about the limitations of memory and the challenge of forgiving. More than just a book review, this article plumbs the depths of the human need for control over our fate–and what happens when that control is absent.
Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish are two of the greatest sparring partners in the Talmud. The story of their meeting and later falling out contains an unlooked-for treasure on the subject of moral responsibility.
Chaya Rosen, the founder of Art and Writings of Destruction and Repair, discusses writing as a tool of self-transformation with Yael Shahar, the author of A Damaged Mirror. How can story-telling become redemptive? What do names have to do with teshuvah–with returning to our better selves?