A few days’ before Rosh Hashana, I had a fairly long drive somewhere, so I took along a couple of Rav Ofer Erez CDs – randomly, whatever I grabbed, I took. Dear reader there is never any ‘randomly’ when it comes to Breslev stuff; whenever I ‘randomly’ open up a Breslev book, listen to a ‘random’ Breslev CD, it’s always exactly what I need, and this time was no different.

The CD I happened to be listening to was all about teshuva. I learned some awesome things from that CD, the main points of which were:

  • We don’t do confession of sins on Rosh Hashana because on some very deep level, we’re not 100% sorry for them. 5% of us actually really enjoyed sending that poisonous email, or cheating on our taxes etc, and that 5% is enough to bring a whole bunch of judgement down on the poor penitent’s head. So the rabbis decided ‘better leave the whole confession thing alone on Rosh Hashana, and only get into it properly on Yom Kippur’, which is a day over-flowing with God’s holy love for us.
  • You can’t make teshuva in 10 seconds – it takes a LONGGG time. I’ll write about this separately, but Rav Ofer Erez brought a very interesting discussion that occurred between the famed Iraqi Kabbalist, Rav Yehuda Fetaya, and a bunch of demonic spirits, that made it clear that complete teshuva normally takes years to do. (So breathe out, if you’re still not quite ‘there’ yet).
  • Rebbe Nachman reveals that there’s a short-cut to making teshuva, what Rav Ofer Erez called the ‘Teshuva Elevator’. What is it? To hear yourself being embarrassed, shamed, humiliated, and to keep shtum.

I have to tell you, Rav Ofer made the Teshuva Elevator sound so appealing – because in one shot, you can scrub off all that really dodgy spiritual stuff that’s been kicking around for years, and calling you loads of problems. But as Rav Ofer made it clear, it’s easy to say, and the hardest thing in the world to actually DO, because there’s something about someone saying horrible things about us that just makes us see red and go for the jugular.

Or, makes us want to throw up with extreme feelings of guilt, panic and ‘I’m wrong’-ness. Rav Ofer explained that it takes 30 years’ effort just to keep quiet once every 50 disses, and another 30 years to stay quiet one in every 30 criticisms. IE – it’s really, really hard spiritual work.

I realized: ‘This test is still completely beyond me, Hashem. Please keep the internet psychos away from me after all, as I don’t think I’ll be able to stand up in it.’

And that was the end of the matter.

Until a few days’ later, when I suddenly got a steady stream of poisonous emails accusing me of all sorts of horrible things. Normally, I’d see red, go for the jugular and defend myself verbally as much as I was able. This time round, some really bizarre thing happened: I could actually see through all the horrible accusations to the core of pain that was bubbling underneath.

My verbal assailant was hurting badly, and was trying to make themselves feel better at my expense. Once I got that (and believe me, it’s a complete miracle that I got that) – I somehow didn’t take all the horrible things I was being sent personally. I still felt a bit sick after skim reading the last couple, because words are very powerful and affect us very powerfully. But I knew: this is the Teshuva Elevator!

And because of that, I didn’t respond with hatred or attack. I still responded – as one of the things I was being accused of was cruelly ignoring the other person – but I kept it short, and as pseudo-friendly as I could. I don’t know if that’s what God wanted, but that’s all I could manage.

You know what else is amazing? Apart from writing this, it isn’t taking up all my headspace and filling me with self-hatred and confusion, as would usually happen in these types of situations. My peace of mind is pretty intact, which astounds me.

If God hadn’t sent me that ‘random’ Rav Ofer Erez CD, I would for sure be in quite a state at the moment, two days before the Yom HaDin. As it is, I’m strangely even a little bit pleased about it. Maybe I really am the crazy, misguided lunatic my emailer is accusing me of being, who knows.

But I have to tell you that even if that’s true, life is SO much nicer this way.

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