In the holy city of Tzefas, in the northern part of Israel, lies the mikvah of the famed kabbalist, the Arizal. Traditional tells us that anyone who immerses himself in the Arizal’s mikvah (I’ve heard it’s VERY cold!) will do teshuvah (repent) before his death.
For a long time, this puzzled me. Who wouldn’t repent before their death?
But upon further reflection, I realized that perhaps I was approaching this idea the wrong way. I think the particular blessing guaranteed is the opportunity to do teshuvah before dying. Because not everyone is granted that. That opportunity is a gift.
I frequently hear people express the wish to die quickly and painlessly. I certainly understand this goal and am not an advocate of prolonged pain. But I think it is a mistaken perspective.
We don’t want to die without the time to prepare. We don’t want to die without time to put our worldly affairs in order. And we don’t want to die without doing teshuvah.
Now, of course, there are those unique and holy people who follow the dictum of Ethics of Our Fathers and “do teshuva one day before you die” -- which essentially means treat every day as if it is your last. They are constantly wiping the slate clean, keeping their account current.
But the rest of us who aren’t (despite our good intentions) need this blessing (whether from the Arizal or directly from The Source).
The month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah is this opportunity. As are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, named aptly enough The Ten Days of Teshuvah. Could it be spelled out more clearly?
This is a special gift from a Father Who loves His children. “I know life is busy, I know you get distracted – so I’ve created this unique opportunity. Ten days to do teshuvah and draw nearer to Me. Ten days when I’m listening more closely than ever to your dreams and aspirations, to your regrets and disappointments – and to your renewed determination to try again.”
We are a privileged people who are granted these 10 days. We are a beloved nation who has received this gift. Let’s make the most of it.