At the heart of my love of Judaism is the verse that proclaims every human is created in the image of God. (Gen 1:27) Folded inside each of us is a spark of glory. The great poetic soul of Rav Kook built an entire approach to Teshuvah from here. Teshuvah, for Rav Kook is not about sackcloth and ashes, it’s about firing-up that spark and letting it illuminate the rest of our lives and actions.
Reading Rav Kook is a glorious antidote to approaches to ‘repentance’ that owe more to Christian notions of original sin than Jewish notions of the creation of all humans btzelem – in the Divine image.
We are created a little less than angels (Psalms 8:5), the potential is so great. No other creature can compete with the extraordinary array of acts of altruism, care, loving kindness, decency and righteousness shown by humans of every ilk at every moment. But then no other creature has the power to destroy as we do. Our failings aren’t inevitable, the ability to catch ourselves, as we trip and stumble, is in our hands. It just takes care and attention.
Every person must see themselves as half worthy and half guilty.
And so too all the world, as if it were half worthy and half guilty.
A person sins one sin, behold they tip themselves, and tip the whole world, onto the scale of guilt.
A person performs one good deed, behold they tip themselves, and tip the whole world, onto the scale of merit.
(Mishneh Torah Hil. Teshuvah 3.8)
In the year to come let’s focus our energies on making contributions to the scale of worth and merit. We can be kinder, more just, fairer and more careful. We can bring healing to a broken world and broken relationships.
Those of you I have wounded and hurt, please accept my apologies. I’ll be trying harder in the year to come,