Let My People Know

“Is the return to a more religious life really a path to self-renewal?”

“The essence of repentance is awakening the potential for renewal, awakening one’s ability to return to being oneself instead of a reflection:

A reflection of media images.

A reflection of neighbors.

Or even a reflection of a younger, more authentic self.

Certainly this might seen doubtful:

Is return in repentance (in the sense of return to a more religious life) really the path to self-renewal?

Isn’t religion itself, with its thousands of prescribed mitzvot and deeds, instructions of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not,” a piece of the same perpetual cycle and routine multiplied exponentially?

Actually this is not the case, for two reasons.

In truth there is an established routine of prayer, mitzvot, and good deeds.

However, this system does not simply carry on, concurrent with the other empty routines of life.

To the contrary, these routines clash ceaselessly.

Religious life disrupts the normal course of eating, drinking, and working in its tracks, and this disturbance of one type of continuum rouses it to transformation.

Practically, the minute interference of Jewish law into every detail of life rescues individuals from sinking into the mire of animal-like behavior.

For every action there is some small pause, saying:

‘For a moment, unleash from this race, shift for a moment to another paradigm—one of blessing, prayer, the ritual washing of the hands—that is neither connected to nor anchored within daily life.’”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay, “From Routine to Return,” (2008) by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz