Title: The Secret to Teshuvah
By Rabbi Aharon Rapps
Each period of the Jewish year, and each Yom Tov, contains within it the opportunity for spiritual growth. There are oros, spiritual lights of inspiration, which we have the opportunity to absorb, provided we create the kelim, the space in which to receive this light. To truly find the meaning of each yom tov is a challenge. While there are numerous seforim that explain the meaning of the yom tovim, at the end of the day they are only pointers to the real meaning of the yom tov. The true meaning and inspiration is not one that can be enunciated, liba l’puma lo galia, but is up to each person to discover each year on their own.
After being exposed to some of the deeper concepts of the yomim tovim by joining with a few other bachurim in the St. Louis Rabbinical College four decades ago to hear shiurim by Rabbi Aharon Rapps based on the Maharal and Pachad Yitzchok, I began, before each yom tov, to immerse myself as completely as I could in the Torah of the yom tov in the hope that I would ultimately find that ohr, the special light that comes each year.
I don’t know which time period creates the greatest challenge in finding the light, but one could argue that the imperative to engage in the process of teshuvah that begins each year on Rosh Chodesh Elul may be the most challenging. I will not recapitulate here the reasons why teshuvah is such a challenge; many have written about it and most of us know too well from personal experience how challenging it is.
The one thing that is clear to me is that in order for someone to successfully navigate the challenge, they must immerse themselves within the sugya of teshuva during Elul in order to build the vessel that will allow them to carry that light by the time Yom Kippur arrives. The Secret to Teshuvah by Rabbi Aharon Rapps is perfectly situated to help build those vessels. Rabbi Rapps takes you through numerous different aspects of Teshuvah found in Tanach and Chazal and offers a perspective on how to understand it.
He begins with a general overview of Teshuvah discussing topics such as Teshuvah rooted in fear vs. that rooted in love, how we establish our true identity through the process of Teshuvah, the need to maintain a positive attitude through the process, and creating a real connection with Hashem. He then continues by taking us through Elul and the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei to offer a perspective on how to use the opportunity given to us. He shares a Chiddushei HaRim on the letters spelling out Elul, a Maharal on the significance of the Kodesh HaKodoshim, an explanation of the importance of the color white on Yom Kippur, and a perspective on the Simchas Bais HaShoevah from Rav Hutner.
If you want to immerse in the Yomim Noraim mindset and discover the ohr within yourself The Secret of Teshuvah is an excellent place to start.