• Prayer with repentance as a refreshing practice
  • We cannot literally go back in time and undo what we did. And yet, repentance is precisely that process by which we can — in the moral realm, if not in the physical realm — we can go back to the deed, we can find that part of ourselves that led to doing the transgression, and reform ourselves. I find that inspiring, to think that we are not in bondage to even our most grievous mistakes.
  • Only I can repent for myself.  Only I can “find that part of myself” and only I can “reform myself”.
  • I need to create this:  “I grew up in a home in which Jewish affairs and issues of Jewish life were just kind of dinner table conversation all the time. So that was kind of in the air.
  • And it was only later on, I suppose, through some years of therapy, that I came to realize that I was proud of myself when I was a kid that my parents always thought I  could sort of do no wrong.  And then I began to realize, as I got older, that was really a double-edged sword. And that the other side of that was I could never admit to myself that I’d done something wrong. I had to figure out some way to hide it, or run from it, or make it better immediately. And so I became more and more prone, I think, to wanting to claim only the best parts of myself. And that leads me, of course, into the subject of repentance. I became aware that, there’s work to do here.  And there’s a kind of a wholeness that’s missing when you try to live your life always in that place of perfection or striving…
  • repentance is connected to the language and the notion of sin. And it’s often used in conjunction with forgiveness, and often, as you say, kind of confused with forgiveness. And one of the things that you point out that feels important to me is you say in Christianity of course it’s a very complicated notion in theology and sacred texts. But it’s often connected in kind of a surface way with death and kind of with condemnation. So I wonder if you’d just talk a little bit about kind of separating out repentance from sin and forgiveness, the way these things get talked about culturally.
  • This is a very loaded notion.  While there are obviously many different strains within every religious tradition. Much of what Judaism teaches about sin is that it’s more like an illness than it is like death. And of course sometimes illnesses can be life-threatening, but many times they’re not. And so you can be healed. There’s a lot of talk about forgiveness and repentance as a form of healing. And it’s a sense of there’s something wrong that needs attention, but it’s not something that’s necessarily my undoing. If only I bring my proper attention to it and turn away from the path that I’m on toward a different path.
  • A path of wholeness and integrity. And so in a certain way I think, it does seem to me that Christian writers very much more often talk about sin as a kind of — it’s innate in our nature.    And Jewish writers tend to talk about sin much more as missing the mark. It’s a mistake. It could be a very serious mistake, but it’s a mistake. And a mistake can be atoned for, and it can be undone.
  • “Sin is about pretending that something is true when in fact it is not. Idolatry is pretending that something is divine and worthy of our devotion when in fact it is not.” And then you wrote “repentance is all about choosing truth over deception.”
  • I think repentance really is about coming to terms with who we really are. And that’s true in a couple of a senses. It’s true both in terms of claiming our own mistakes, not running from them, not hiding them, but actually claiming them. Knowing that they’re true and owning them. And also owning the fact that deep down, our core essence is ultimately good.
  • God created us with a pure soul, our tradition teaches. And in that sense, doing repentance, doing teshuvah, is about returning to the purity and wholeness that’s kind of your original nature that you’ve strayed from. And in that sense, too, it’s about honesty and truthfulness. It’s about being true to who we really are, ultimately.
  • language and words and letters in Hebrew are so important.  This isn’t transparent to people reading the Bible who don’t know Hebrew and it’s very metaphorical and visual, and the exact translation of teshuvah would be turning, returning, responding.
  • So turning away from the path you’ve been on, back toward a loftier goal, back toward God, back toward a righteous life. So it’s a kind of shifting orientation, so really turning your attention somewhere else.  It’s also about returning. And in that sense, returning to one’s true nature. As I said a minute ago, that sense of coming back to who we really most deeply are and were meant to be. And turning, of course, to God. And finally, it has that sense of responding.
  • Repentance – Teshuvah, in another sense, means a response, and an answer in modern Hebrew. And in that sense, it’s really about as if there’s a call coming out to us all the time, inviting us to repent. In fact, the tradition talks about this. There’s a voice always coming from Mount Sinai inviting us to return. And that sense of responding to an ongoing call that’s there, whether we’re listening to it or not, is very much a part of what we mean by repentance.
  • Repentance has this image of literally stopping in your tracks and turning in another direction. That it was a very physical image.
    • If you think about this in terms of a 360 degree circle, if you’re headed in one direction and you turn only one degree or two degrees to the right or to the left, over a long period of time — it may be a very slight turn, but over an extended period of time, if you now walk in that direction, you’ll end up in an utterly different place than if you extend that line outward infinitely. And that sense of turning even slightly…
    • it doesn’t have to be a radical, all of a sudden transformation into a new life. It’s actually a very gradual process of recognizing, “you know, I need to pay attention to that particular failing a little bit more, and move in a little different direction.”
  • Repentance is different from talking about moral obligation or moral condemnation, or moral reckoning than the way we talk about sin. But that it is in fact about gaining freedom, gaining moral freedom, as you said. In fact, to create beyond whatever was damaged or flawed or harmful.
  • I came to realize is that in a certain sense when we don’t own our transgressions, when we run from them, which is, after all, the most natural thing to do. “I did something wrong, I cheated someone, I told a lie about something, I took credit for something I shouldn’t have” — whatever it was, however small or large, our immediate instinct, often, is to run away from it. Or to hide it. Or to lie about what we did wrong so that nobody will find out about it or something of that nature.  And in doing that, we essentially — we’re in bondage to the thing that we’ve done.  We have now essentially let it dictate our next move and the move after that. To do repentance is to be free of that. And ironically, or maybe paradoxically really, it’s when we own — it’s when we run toward our transgressions, rather than away from them, that we actually become free of them. That we actually then can…
  • By owning them and then claiming them and then distancing ourselves from what we have really taken full credit for — only then are we really free of it.
  • it’s a profound experience in a lot of ways, partly because it’s in the context of a very safe space of other people, who are coming to terms with their own failings and their own addictions of various kinds that you actually have the freedom to say, “I did this. I drank to excess. I did these other things and lied about them. I did all of these things that I’m ashamed of.” And say that out loud, and know that the circle in which you’re sitting is a circle of people who will accept you and support you in your desire to own those things, and repent for them, and become a different kind of person.
  • In fact, the 12-step program really is a program of repentance. It’s a program of spiritual development and moral accountability.
  • You used the language of soul-reckoning as part of your understanding of repentance. So I’d like you to talk about that, but also just how, as you said, the 12 steps might have been in a different order and they might have been phrased somewhat differently if they were written by a rabbi.
  • That’s interesting. The first step that someone gives in a 12-step group is often a step in which you recount the story of your own addiction and some of the things that you did — whether that’s drug abuse, or other kinds of addictive behaviors. And the ways in which it dragged you down and distorted your relationships, and distorted your sense of self, and filled you with a sense of guilt and shame.

The following are the original twelve steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:[10]

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

One of the people in my group consistently, time after time, would talk about how much he appreciated hearing this person’s story, because he could see the goodness in this person. And I was really sort of taken aback the first time I heard him do this. It was like, are you kidding? I just heard this person talking about being deceitful and stealing to support his habit, and whatever else he did.  And yet I realized after hearing him do that a few times that what he heard was the remorse, and the remorse really is the sign of the goodness showing through. It’s that point at which we both really acknowledge and claim and own what we did, and also step back from it and look at it from a bit of a distance and can say, I really don’t want to live that life. And that’s a sign of goodness. That’s a sign of the goodness reasserting itself over against your having fallen into a dysfunctional pattern of behavior. And that’s very much like what Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a famous Hasidic teacher, means when he says that we should always look for the good in others. And that in fact, even in a person who’s virtually completely sinful, he says you should find the very smallest bit of goodness in them. And on that account, you should judge them for their merits. And when you do that, he says — even for the person who’s most sinful — when you see their goodness, you help them repent.

  • That’s right. That’s right. I think that our culture has actually sort of — got this all wrong, mostly. In the sense that there’s this funny way in which I think repentance is exactly in the middle. It insists that you be held fully accountable and it insists simultaneously that there’s a way back.
  • It’s not merely spiritual. Which really reflects an intelligence about the fullness of humanity, which — it’s remarkable that that was in the origins of this ritual 20 centuries ago.
  • There’s a way in which every year we ought to have an opportunity to examine the past, to own what we did, to repent for it, and to start fresh.
  • actually — anyone who’s had that experience of really coming to terms with something that they did wrong, actually apologizing and expressing their remorse to the person that they hurt, and feeling free then of it — that process, which we’ve all experienced at one time or another, is thrilling. It’s cleansing. And it feels as though — sure, it’s hard. Nobody wants to step forward to the person that they’ve harmed and say, “I was really callous and mean and shortsighted when I said or did the thing that I did before.” But when you do it, you find that there’s a liberation in it.
  • It’s the joy that comes from feeling as though you’ve overcome the past instead of being enslaved to it.
  • Why is conselling good.  Cousellor is a spirit guide who leads and walks with you through the process of evaluating your past experiences.  To recognize past mistakes. To OWN the past mistakes. And I need to recognize that and own that, because in order to avoid making that same mistake again, I need to know what I did wrong. And I need to have a safe place in which to do that. And to talk about that. And the trial court judges that I talked to talked about how the power that they wield over the people who appear before them in court is sort of awesome, and that they need to be aware of their own vulnerabilities, prejudices, failings.
  • Can’t live the best possible life without identifying and owning past mistakes.   Recognizing them as mistakes in your heart. repenting of them (appologizing), plan (hedges) to not make them again.   They need to know their own blind spots to know that.
  • To be blind to that is precisely to avoid the kind of level of ethics that we expect of professionals and that they expect of themselves. And so that, to me, tied in very closely with this notion of soul-reckoning. That we have to actually know ourselves deeply, that each transgression is an opportunity to go now why did I do that? Why did I speak ill of that person behind their back? Or why did I snap at my spouse? Or scream at my kids, or whatever I might have done on a given day. What was it going on for me that made me do something that I’m now regretting? And to know that about myself is to know where the growing edge of my moral life is. And to be able to then move beyond the behavior of the past. And so, what I learned in talking to these professionals, really, is that they are — whether they call it repentance or not, they are engaged regularly in their own process.
  • coming to terms with what their own vulnerabilities are. And recognizing that if they don’t do that, they risk some very serious mistakes.
  • Yeah, so clearly, this is work. But it’s the work of being alive, being fully alive.
  • Here’s something you wrote that I want to read. It’s a little bit long, but I think it’s really lovely. You say, “the costs of ignoring the work of repentance are not easily quantifiable, but the evidence is all around us. We see it in the lives of public figures, politicians, and corporate executives who get caught in some deceitful or fraudulent behavior, and deny it. We see it on daytime television shows where people confess their transgressions before a live audience for their entertainment. Most of all we know it in those quiet moments in our own lives when we recognize that we are not living up to our own moral standards, yet don’t know how to restore our own sense of wholeness and integrity.   The ultimate benefit of doing repentance is that it offers us a way to overcome our past precisely because we have confronted and taken full responsibility for it. It enables us to escape the sense of guilt, in some cases even despair with which many of us live. In its place, we come to live with self-acceptance and hope, because we know that moral renewal is always a possibility.”
  • We’d rather they didn’t know. We’d rather let that remain a secret. And so that’s part of, I think, what makes the work of repentance so incredibly arduous — is you have to be willing to live transparently. At least in the context of a small, say, recovery group, or in the context of your most intimate relationships. You have to let people know you fully and to do that is to make yourself extraordinarily vulnerable.
  • So, within the tradition you find a couple of different points of view about this. Of course, you find this extraordinary passage in Exodus in the context of talking about Pharaoh, and God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. And what does all that mean? And at some points the rabbis talk about the notion that the person who says, “I’ll sin and repent, I’ll sin and repent” — as if to say, “Eh, this is no big deal. I’ll sin and I can just go on. Yom Kippur comes around all of us…”  “I can get a free ticket.”   It’s like a get out of jail free card. That person, they say — it’s not possible for that person to repent. And they may mean by that that it’s psychologically impossible for that person to ever really acknowledge, deeply acknowledge and do the work of repentance. They haven’t taken themselves seriously enough yet to actually do this work. And it may be the case that there are people who have sort of become so habituated to sinful behavior and egregious behavior that they really can’t find their way back.
  • I think we’ve all known people who’ve integrated harmful behavior towards themselves or others into their sense of self, even into their sense of power. Right  And we’ve all done that at some point. But you — I certainly think I’ve known people who you feel like they’ve gone past the point of no return.   I do think that that’s a possibility. And at the same time, I want to add, the tradition also wants to say that even though — well, to take the common example — You’ve got to apologize and make restitution to the people you’ve harmed in order to do full repentance. Suppose that person can’t be found? It was somebody that you stumbled across in some situation and you don’t even know their name. You couldn’t even find them if you wanted to. Or suppose it’s a person who has now passed away, and you literally can’t…
  • And I think the tradition wants to walk a fine line because on the one hand, it wants to acknowledge the depths of evil to which humanity is capable of falling. And it wants to say but hope is always there if you genuinely want it. So let’s take the example of the Nazi or of the mass murderer.
  • if he were genuinely remorseful and spent the rest of his life devoted to undoing the wrong he did as best he could, would we not want to say, well he can’t undo the past — but remember the point is not undoing the past. The point is growing from the past and turning yourself around and demonstrating that you’re genuinely a new person.
  • But the truth is God both wants to hold us accountable and wants to forgive us. And that’s one more of the paradoxes of this work of repentance. If you’re not fully accountable, then you don’t have to do repentance. If you have no way back, then there’s no point to doing repentance. It’s exactly at the point at which you both are fully accountable and fully free to choose a different path that repentance sits. And that’s the balancing act. You have to believe both that you are accountable and that you’re free in order to repent.
  • And I think as you described that you talk about the implications of it. What it implies is that when we harm another person, or when we fail to rise to the occasion, that we somehow damage the community as a whole. That the consequences of our action kind of transcends space and time. I mean, just as our bodies and our psyches hold a lot that transcends space and time.
  • Our sins live on after us, right?    There’s some sense in which what we did wrong continues to have impact and ripple effects long after we’re not even here to see them any longer.  Yeah, you said that “Jews have long-believed that our transgressions against one another have cosmic consequences.” But then there’s also the flip side of that, which is Martin Buber saying, “The wounds of the order of being can be healed in infinitely many other places than those at which they were inflicted.” Which is such a wonderful thing to think about.   That — so I can’t go back and find the person that I actually harmed, but suppose I could find some other person in like situation and make it up to them. If I can now be more loving and compassionate toward others in ways that I wasn’t on a given occasion with someone else, I can rebalance the scales of justice, so to speak, in the universe by bringing more love and compassion into the world in one place where I took it away in some other.
  • One — even one good deed starts to tilt the scales. Starts to tilt the scales, starts to tilt those larger scales.
  • Power of repentance is that it brings redemption to the world.
  • That each good deed we do, each time we repent, we actually push the world a little closer toward goodness. And a little farther from evil. And in that sense, every act has cosmic significance. It’s like the Arc of the Moral Universe is long but it bends towards justice.
  • There’s a sense in which it’s a very long arc, but every little bit that every one of us does moves it a little farther in the right direction — bringing the world closer to the place that God wants it to be.
  • I end the book there because it strikes me that there is something mysterious in the human spirit. That gets touched in this process of repentance. That is to say, I’ve watched this happen in the lives of other addicts, and recovering people in the circle that I’ve been a part of for these years. And I’ve seen it outside of that circle in others that a person who may have been habitually one way, at a certain point really does turn their lives around and become a different kind of person. How did that happen? How did they manage to do that? What was it that enabled them to make the changes all of a sudden, or maybe even gradually, at one point in their lives, that they were incapable of making at an earlier point in their lives? It is a kind of a mystery and the notion that I can take my faults and turn them into merits is — makes no sense rationally.
  • It’s still hard to live in that self-reflective way of knowing always that there’s an opportunity here to grow, and to learn, and to do better. And so I’ve learned that without the support of a network of people around me in my recovery circle, it would be very difficult to do this.
  • The payoff really is that I feel cleaner morally. And that’s what makes this work worthwhile. Is that it enables us to repair what’s broken. One of the great things that, again, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said was “if you believe you have the power to ruin it, believe you have the power to fix it.” And I think there’s a proportionality here that the work is really hard, but the benefit is really remarkable. And I think those are the two things I’ve learned from both my personal work and my scholarly work. And even the work that I’ve done in the context of my own Jewish community where in various leadership roles I’ve had opportunities to work with a lot of people and watch all sorts of relationships go bad, and then work with people to help try to make up for what got off track.


First step to crawl out of depression:

  1. identify the truth (3rd party in put may be required)
    1. Depression says “there is no hope”
    2. If God is real “there is no hope” is a lie because God can move mountains
  2. Identify the Truth about God
    1. Where did you come from
    2. Who are you
    3. Who loves you
  3. Identify the Truth about you.
    1. You have a purpose
    2. Your suffering comes with a promise
    3. God created us with a pure soul, our tradition teaches. And in that sense, doing repentance, doing teshuvah, is about returning to the purity and wholeness that’s kind of your original nature that you’ve strayed from. And in that sense, too, it’s about honesty and truthfulness. It’s about being true to who we really are, ultimately.
    4. ASK – what are you currently in bondage to that you need to be set free from (what have you done that you can identify yourself and choose yourself to be set free from with repentance and prayer?)
  4. Truth of the bible – what does it tell you about
    1. God & Jesus
    2. Who you are?
    3. God’s plan for you
      1. to return to God
      2. serve God & love God
      3. serve others
    4. God’s power
  5. Truth about your sins
    1. Repent of your sins


Refugee recovery group?

What if we had a marriage improvement group that was based on 12 step program for people recovering from pride.

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