Every year we read the book of Jonah on Yom Kippur. The reading in the afternoon marks a dramatic conclusion for a day of fasting, praying, and introspection. A time in which we truly reconsider our lives, our deeds, and how to best return to God. Often times we are blind to the things which we really need to repent for. Sometimes we can be blinded by greed, selfishness, insecurities or even our ego. It is an extremely painful thing to realize that a mistake was made. Sometimes that realization can only happen years after that incident occurred when our emotions are finally at ease and our insecurities are at a rest.
It is amazing how our personal urge to be the best can sometimes lead us into the most complicated of situations. These situations can be challenging to extract ourselves from. We are scared that we lack the inner strength to be able to overcome them. We have trepidations about our own ability to grow and change in order to become a more whole person.
It was God who called out to Jeremiah saying: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations.” (1:5). A powerful statement from which we learn that God knows our ability to grow. This ultimately is a statement of hope, I believe. The Redak (a medieval commentator) retranslated that verse to say “when I had not yet formed you in the womb, I made you great, and when you had not yet emerged from the womb, I sanctified you.” He was attempting to answer the question of a) are we born evil? and b) was Jeremiah given special instruction so that he would pop out ready to be a prophet? Since most prophets rejected their calling from God initially, was this a sign that Jeremiah did not reject his calling? No, this was saying that we are all made great and that we have all been sanctified by God. That God calls upon us to engage in life. We are asked and called by God to engage in the process of teshuvah when we find ourselves entrapped in one of those complications. We are further called to be in this process every year as a sort of reset button on our life. Our specific calling according to this verse is in fact to be “a light to the nations.” We accomplish this by simply being a light to those around us.
In this case, I would offer my translation of the word navi or prophet to be an example. We are supposed to engage in the teshuvah process to be both a light to those around us and bring us closer to God. When we recognize the divine light within ourselves and the divine light within others perhaps we will be more ready to engage in a process ofteshuvah.
This is a process in which we would engage and become more intimate with God, grow in our maturity and develop stronger relationships with those around us. It helps us to channel our anger, fear, and doubt into a statement of profound loving faith by our very actions.
May you all be blessed with the knowledge that you have the ability to engage in this process. May you find within yourself the courage to do so. May we be blessed with a sweet healthy and happy new year.