The period from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur is known as the Ten Days of Teshuva.
The word teshuvs is often translated as “repentance” but it really means “return.”
This time is about returning to our home.
It’s a spiritual “homecoming.”
But what does this even mean?
Especially in a time of quarantines and lockdowns, what does it mean to return home?
In ancient times, the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashana heralded a literal homecoming.
The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained that one Hebrew word for “sin” technically means an act done in the wrong place.
Another word used for “sin” means “transgression” — the crossing of a boundary.
In biblical times, the punishment for sins, for an act done in the wrong place, was exile. A person was sent away, forced to live outside the community.
The shofar blast was an invitation to return home, to rejoin the community.
Today we might not be physically exiled by others but we exile ourselves. We enter what meditation teacher Tara Brach calls the “trance of unworthiness.”
We may be shamed by others or carry an inner shame conditioned from childhood. Our shame causes us to withdraw from daily life; we go into hiding. As a result, we experience a severed belonging — a feeling of being exiled from the community, even if we are the ones doing the exiling of ourselves.
When we are in this trance of unworthiness it isn’t just the community from whom we are exiled. We are also cut off from ourselves. We experience being in a “separate self” — locked out of our own lives.
One way this happens is through shame.
This often happens unconsciously, as a way to protect ourselves from pain. Shame blocks our emotions, causing us to become numb to what we are feeling. It’s a reaction meant to protect us from the intensity of our experience but it also locks us out of our hearts and prevents us from connecting.
Bret Lyons and Shiela Rubin, co-founders of The Center for Healing Shame, define shame as the “breaking of the interpersonal bridge.”
It’s a form of exile, from ourselves and from others.
We cut off connection to others, and by so doing we cut off our own aliveness.
One of the fundamental tenets of Judaism is that sin doesn’t attach to the person who committed the sin.
The concept of repentance and forgiveness means we can return to the folds of the community.
To return home means to shed the shame that keeps us locked in the separate self.
Underneath the layers of shame we will find the kernel of our true self, our innate wholeness.
We may have done something bad, but we are not bad. We have the capacity to change, to turn away from past behaviors and forge a new path.
The process of coming home is not about fixing something that is broken; it’s about removing the layers of protective armoring that keep us separated from others.
It’s a process of remembering who we once were — who we always are deep within — and reconnecting with that core self who has always been there.
Returning home is about rebuilding the interpersonal bridge.
release your shame mask
reveal your inner wholeness
come home to yourself