Free download: Discussion topics on T’shuvah as healing. Returning: Reflections & Resources on Teshuvah explores some of the difficulties and dilemmas facing those who seek to heal the wounds of their own souls—especially self-inflicted wounds. These topics are explored through a series of dialogues between a former member of the Birkenau Sonderkommando and a rabbi.
Tisha b’Av is an intentionally triggered “national flashback”. Any survivor will tell you that the anniversary of a traumatic event is the time when one is most likely to relive it. Rather than trying to “get over it”, we allow ourselves to acknowledge the loss. We acknowledge that there are some things that we should not just “get over”.
In a new review of A Damaged Mirror, therapist Sheri Oz writes about the limitations of memory and the challenge of forgiving. More than just a book review, this article plumbs the depths of the human need for control over our fate–and what happens when that control is absent.
Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish are two of the greatest sparring partners in the Talmud. The story of their meeting and later falling out contains an unlooked-for treasure on the subject of moral responsibility.
Chaya Rosen, the founder of Art and Writings of Destruction and Repair, discusses writing as a tool of self-transformation with Yael Shahar, the author of A Damaged Mirror. How can story-telling become redemptive? What do names have to do with teshuvah–with returning to our better selves?
Can we do T’shuvah for acts committed under compulsion? Even in the absence of responsibility, the need for atonement can be met. We feel contaminated by being brought to the point of ultimate helplessness, but healing comes from our learning to take responsibility for our own lives from this point on. We feel guilty for living through our own deaths, but healing comes from the ability to partake of life and give life as much and as selflessly as possible. Should a person be denied the healing of T’shuvah, just because he isn’t guilty?
A subconscious thought becomes explicit when it is articulated in speech. Things unspoken—and unspeakable—may have tremendous influence on an individual. A nightmare may shape one’s outward thoughts and feelings far beyond what we can ever be aware of. Until we can articulate the nightmare, and bring it into conscious awareness, we have no control over it. So it is with Teshuvah, and so it is with the Geulah.
In Teshuvah, we go through some of the same stages as in mourning, but it is for ourselves that we mourn—for the loss of our better selves, for our mistakes and their consequences. Eventually, we reach a stage where all the regret, despair, grief, and longing to make right can find expression. We express the inner turmoil and make it concrete and real, and at the same time reach closure with it. We acknowledge our mistakes and their consequences, our wrong-turns and blind allies, and by speaking them aloud, we take possession of them.
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the common factor: What does recovery from trauma have to do with these three things: teshuvah; bringing a disturbing dream to Birkhat Hakohanim; and the Jewish people’s national redemption.”
Needless to say I accepted the mission…