I have mentioned before how delighted I am to teach young children. Not only do my grandfatherly instincts come into play but I genuinely enjoy the imaginative and intelligent innocence of children. The lessons I learn bring me not only laughter but the light of an awareness that is often lost to the minds of older people.
I asked a group of elementary school children,grades 1-4, what the meaning of Teshuvah was.Conventionally, it is translated as repentance which in itself is a difficult notion to grasp for both child and adult. Since the students study modern Hebrew and some of them are Israeli, a response from several was :"Teshuvah" means an answer."
Indeed, in everyday Hebrew parlance, the word for an answer to a question is "teshuvah."
In thinking about this answer it occurred to me that these children had hit upon a very profound meaning of Teshuvah, the concept of repentance , change , return or transformation, all of which are contained in this spiritually powerful word.
The process of Teshuvah during this season of the High Holydays is in fact a summons to answer for our lives as spiritual and moral Jews and human beings. Each year we halt our frenetic activities and preoccupations and we are asked:"What's it all about? What does my life mean? Am I living my life as an authentic reflection of my "inner self" and the image of God that was implanted in me?
The first step toward change is to ask the right question, to seek the honest answer, to search for a "teshuvah!"
The answer is one that each individual arrives at in her/his own spiritual search. General guidelines may help in this quest; only an answer that speaks to our individual hearts and souls will in the end resonate with the song of genuine Teshuvah.
The human being was given the gift of being able to ask questions and provide answers. We are grateful for this gift of teshuvah during the Ten Days of Teshuvah which span this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.