We’ve recognized the necessity to change. We’ve deemed it worthwhile to change. And we’ve made a decision to change. Now we need to open ourselves up to perspectives we haven’t considered before.
The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26b) explains that on Rosh Hashanah we use a curved shofar to symbolize that “the more a person bends his mind, the better off he is.” Based on this passage, Rav Yisrael Salanter (Michtav 7) explains that shivron lev, a broken heart, is the key to merit a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashanah.
A broken heart — that sounds pretty depressing!
A whole, undivided heart reflects confidence in one’s existing beliefs, whereas a broken heart signifies uncertainty, allowing for a reevaluation of prior assumptions.
In the parsha (Torah portion) of tzitzis (Numbers 15:39), Rashi explains that an aveirah (sin) arises from one’s heart. In every area where we sense a chisaron (a void or lack), there’s a mindset that preceded it. We need to reconsider our assumptions in order to turn the situation around.
- A tenuous relationship may be reborn if we reconsider the importance of “being right” and open our hearts to “being a source of strength or positivity.”
- A lifestyle that’s too busy for Torah study may suddenly allow for learning if we rethink the “all or nothing” premise and appreciate small opportunities instead.
- Davening may stop being a boring chore if we realize that we make a difference in the world through prayer.
This can be extremely difficult. We so deeply identify with our beliefs that we define ourselves by them. Letting go of them feels almost like letting go of life itself!
It’s at this point of tremendous tension that true Torah growth emerges. This moment of vulnerability is the shivron lev, the broken heart, that Rav Yisrael is referring to.
The teshuvah process requires us to reach the point of a broken heart, a readiness to reconsider our present stance — the one that brought us to where we are today — and ask the simple yet profound question, “But maybe not?”
Let’s stop for a moment and open our hearts (and minds) to the following questions:
- What are our underlying assumptions — the “voices” within us — that have brought us to where we are today?
Remembering the bent shofar, let’s ask ourselves: “But maybe not?”
P.S.Email Lebovits2@gmail.com your REPLY to share your thoughts and experiences on this fourth step of the teshuvahprocess.