A Healthy Soul in Five Minutes
Teshuva has received a bad rap throughout the years. Normally, it's translated as 'penitence', a word that carries a hellfire and brimstone connotation. No way...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
You're about to feel fantastic in five minutes. How? Just as there are 5-minute carwashes, there are 5-minute soul washes. When your soul feels clean, you feel phenomenal.
People open up any of the classic Jewish-ethics books and learn that all their sufferings in life come from a soiled soul, impurities from prior transgressions that they have not yet atoned for. This process of atonement is what's known in Judaism as teshuva. Then, once they learn the arduous process that traditional teshuva entails, they slam the book shut and put it back on the shelf.
Teshuva has received a bad rap throughout the years. Normally, it's translated as "penitence", a word that carries a hellfire and brimstone connotation. No way! Teshuva is simply a process where the soul gets closer to its Creator. The Hebrew word teshuva literally means "coming back" or "returning". It describes a state where the soul comes back to its source of health and vitality – the Creator – Where it came from.
With the above principle in mind, teshuva is spiritual hygiene or cleansing of the soul. Simply speaking, the cleaner a soul is, the more it is a worthy vessel for Divine light, which it receives from enhanced proximity to the Creator. The more Divine light it basks in, the happier and healthier it is.
For physical hygiene, one must bathe regularly. Most people shower daily. Spiritual hygiene is no different. For the soul to be healthy and happy, a person must engage in daily teshuva.
Now is where people protest: "Hey, it takes me five minutes to shower! I'm in and I'm out! Teshuva – that takes years! Look what all the holy books have to say about what it takes to atone for one transgression, much less my Samsonite full of kinky stuff..."
I've got news for you, my bro (sis) – we can dispose of your Samsonite in five minutes, maybe even less. Stick with me for a tiny bit, and you'll be on the road to a crystal-clear, clean, happy and healthy soul. How? Here goes:
Here's a bit of spiritual anatomy in a nutshell. Transgressions blemish the soul and block Divine light. It's that darkness that hurts spiritual and emotional health and brings on all types of troubles in life. Once the blemishes are erased, the soul returns to its health and cleanliness and troubles disappear.
There are two types of transgressions. The first is between man and the Creator and the second is between man and his fellow man. Here's how to fix both in five minutes a day:
1. Fixing transgressions between man and the Creator:
This is easy. Think about whatever you did wrong that the Creator didn't want you to do. You certainly would not have done it if you had felt that the Creator was right there with you. No one would ever pass the speed limit with the State Trooper's car in his rear-view mirror. Tell the Creator, "I'm so sorry for what I did (tell Him what you did; He always forgives as long as we're straight with Him). Father in Heaven, I wouldn't have done what I did if I would have felt Your presence. I momentarily forgot about You. My belief in You was weak. Please help me believe in You always and never forget You. Forgive me for my lack of emuna that caused me to sin."
Bullseye – you just did what many so-called religious people don't do: you uprooted the cause of sin, which is none other than a lack of emuna. You're now home free! In your own time, do your best to strengthen emuna and show the Creator that you're sincere. This will invoke every blessing in your life.
2. Fixing transgressions between man and fellow man:
Swallow your pride, pick up the phone and apologize to anyone you ever harmed or insulted. That's tough, isn't it. Okay, there's a way to put that on hold. Instead of taking the next thirty days going through the phone book and your life history, searching for anyone you must apologize to, promise yourself that, if you encounter them, you'll apologize. In the meanwhile, this will serve as a spiritual insurance policy for you.
Even better, do this:
Tell the Creator, and be sincere, that you forgive anyone who ever harmed you in any way. There's a carte-blanche promise from our Talmudic sages that if a person forgives others for affronts against Him, the Almighty must forgive that person, in like manner, for every affront against Him. And guess what – it works like a charm.
Do the above two exercises for five minutes a day, and wait and see how great you feel. Meanwhile, do what you can to strengthen your emuna, and your soul will shine in good health. All it takes is five minutes a day, but if you cheat and add another minute or two, you'll just get better and better.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.