At the height of the Churban. The Beis Hamikdash in flames. Sent into exile. Destruction, terror surrounds them. Yet, they harness the tragedy to serve as a wakeup call to do teshuva. In Megillas Eicha it says,
נחפשה דרכינו ונחקורה, ונשובה עד ה.
Let us search and examine our ways, and let us return to Hashem.
In our lives, whenever we are faced with a difficult situation, we can see it as a message from Hashem. What message is Hashem telling me? He’s reminding me to look inwards, to turn and return to Him. For me, teshuva means just what that possuk is saying, to make an honest reality check. How am I acting? What are my weaknesses, my strengths? How do I want to improve my relationship with Hashem? This requires honesty. It is sometimes confronting to see our weaknesses, to see what a long way we have to go. But only if we know what we need to work on can we grow as a person.
Why did I bring up Eicha, which we read on Tisha B’Av?
I always wondered why Av was right before Elul, the month of Teshuva.
Now, I see why. It’s because, after a month of distance from Hashem, we experience a month of closeness, of the King smiling to us in the field. It’s because, after a month of seeing Hashem’s attribute of strictness, we see His Mercy, we see His 13 attributes of Mercy shining in full glory. It’s the closeness you experience after the difficulty. It’s the relationship that became stronger after you weathered the storm together. Through Av, through clinging to Hashem through thick and thin, through the times when Hashem’s Presence is so hidden, we merit in Elul to see Hashem flash us His smiling Face.
Therefore, the two months are so intrinsically connected and it’s no wonder that they are right next to each other.
When I heard Eicha this year, I saw how many lessons in Teshuva it has for us all.
The second last possuk of it is a powerful one. A very famous possuk, its lesson struck me deeply.
השיבנו ה אליך ונשובה.
Return us to You and we will return.
In our lives, sometimes we hit rock bottom. Each of us, as teenagers at different points in our lives has made really stupid mistakes. We might have messed up really badly, whether in our relationships with people or with our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Sometimes we want to return, but it feels too hard. I’ve gone too far! How can I come back? Yet this possuk tells us the route we can go. All we need to do is ask Hashem to help us. All we need to do, is have the will to do teshuva, the want to change, the request, “Hashem, return us to You.” Hashem then helps us improve. We don’t have to do it alone. And Hashem awaits our Teshuva. He is so forgiving. Hashem is begging, crying, pleading, “Return to Me.” We say in davening each day, “הרוצה בתשובה”, that Hashem wants our Teshuva.
As our Father, we just need to stretch out our hand and He’ll help us along.
And then the possuk continues, ונשובה, and we will return. We will improve. If we come with good intentions, we are helped. It’s possible. We are never too far away to come back home. Even the worst sinners had their Teshuva accepted and in one split second were able to make a 180 degree turn.
We and Hashem are connected with 613 strands. When a person sins, one of the strands rip. Yet when he does teshuva, the 2 pieces of rope are knotted together. So too, after we do teshuva, are connection and bond with Hashem is stronger than it was before we did the sin.
Elul is a special month for me because it is a month of opportunity. Like a fresh slate, teshuva erases our sin. We can start fresh and anew. Our beautiful bond with Hashem is so strong, we are connected forevermore.
May we all make the most of this opportune month. May we all be able to return to our Father in Heaven, and in response, may He return us to our Homeland Eretz Yisroel with Moshiach speedily in our days.