The Fourth Principle of Teshuva: MANIFESTING ANGUISH
What sets the Jewish faith apart from others is that Judaism focuses on action as well as knowledge and faith. It asks us to take our heartfelt convictions by the hand, if you will, and to lead them gingerly outside the self, into the cold and chaotic world. For while there may be no atheists in foxholes or in the privacy of prayer, there seem to be many in the whirligig of social and professional life.
So we’re challenged to *manifest* our heartfelt longings for spiritual excellence; to practise and act out of our convictions.
After all, if I truly want to do teshuva (to return to G-d) I’d need to act a certain way as well as feel it. As the expression goes, I’d need to “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk”.
So we’re told here that if we’d lapsed somehow into spiritual mediocrity, it wouldn’t do to just anguish over that. We’d need to manifest that anguish somehow or another, depending on where within us we’d lapsed.
Rabbeinu Yonah cites the revelation of our sages that the two greatest agitators of sin are the heart and the eyes. After all, the heart longs for and prods us onto things which the eyes then prettify and idealize. As such, it would seem to be wise to somehow use those two crafty “agens provocateur” as means of *returning to G-d*. Which is to say, to somehow or another long for and be prodded on to goodness which we’d come to see as prettier yet and more ideal than sin.
We’re thus taught that the best way to rectify the errors of a heart that longed for and prodded us on to spiritual mediocrity would be to *actually and manifestedly* stew for a while in heart-bitterness and contrition. To sit stunned and taken aback for a time by how banal of spirit we’d allowed ourselves to be. And to thus rectify and metamorphize the heart from the outside in. To allow our heart-bitterness and contrition to seep into the curves and bends of the heart itself, and touch it deeply.
We’re also taught that the best way to rectify the errors of the eyes that prettified and idealized spiritual mediocrity would be to *actually and manifestedly* weep for a while. To sit in a corner of the room somewhere for a time and cry from the depths, And to thus rectify and metamorphize the eyes from the outside in as well. To allow our tears to wash our eye-lenses, if you will, and allow us to see wrong and spiritual mediocrity for what it actually is.
There’s another point being made here as well. As we’ll discover at a later juncture, the sages addressed a theme in teshuva known as “temurah” (exchanging). And our principle touches upon the idea in some way. The “temurah” process involves using the very same agent that had done wrong to do good. Common examples might be speaking well of people rather than speaking meanly of them; using the wits and cunning you’d garnered to be a thief to discourage young people from stealing; using your experience as an alcoholic to help others recover; etc.
The point here is that if we’d lapsed by means of our heart, our eyes, and the like, it would do us well to use that very same agent to its best advantage step-by-step. By first growing heart-sick and crying, and thus cleansing the agent involved. And to then use it to do good.
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