Sunday, October 12, 2008

Teshuvah and Consequences

As I am quite busy with Yom Tov this year falling in the middle of the week which puts a lot of pressure on doing as much as possible in the few available days, I have not had time to continue with the subject I am in the midst of working through. However, I just want to share a few thoughts that have been at the forefront during RH and YK. I understand that one of the big Hidushim of Teshuvah, the novelty about repentance, is that there is such a possibility to begin with. As we live in a world of cause and effect where every action has a consequence, it would appear that once a sequence of events has been put in motion, nothing short of a miracle can stop it. It would take a tremendous amount of prescience to figure out how to effect a change in a negative sequence that his been put in motion even after the person who started it becomes aware of the detrimental consequences. As an example from our current news, very few recognized the toxicity of derivatives a few years ago. Now that the problem is upon us, the world wants to repent but is at a loss to figure out what will work. Derivatives may no longer be written in the future but the negative effect they caused will never totally disappear. One way or the other it will influence the financial world for years to come. The same is with every action that we do. Some have a greater impact, others a lesser one while some are catastrophic. The only thing the repentant person can do is avoid repeating his mistakes and try to somehow mitigate the consequences his actions have wrought. That is how I understood the end of Viduy –

יהי רצון מלפניך, שלא אחטא, ומה שחטאתי מרוק ברחמיך הרבים, אבל לא על ידי ייסורין

May it please You that I not sin anymore and my past sins be cleansed thanks to Your having great pity on us, but (please) not through pain.

In other words, we acknowledge that the consequences are hard to stop but we still pray that somehow they be mitigated. I also see this statement as self-inducement to try to find ways and actions that will mitigate these consequences. It is not always possible but we still have to at least try.

That is also how I understand the words of Viduy -

אבל חטאנו אנחנו, ואבותינו

But, our ancestors and we sinned.

We bring our ancestors into the picture because their actions, possibly even millennia ago, have consequences that affect us even so many years later. A chain of cause and effect is not easy to stop.

I wish all a Chag Sameach.

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