Yom Kippur Plan B
According to Jewish tradition, there are certain key components necessary in the process of teshuva. There must be (a) regret of the wrong, (b) a verbal confession and (c) a commitment to discontinue the erroneous behavior.
But even with all these elements, the issue still persists: What exactly are we trying to accomplish? Is this some sort of magical formula to assuage our guilt? Can we ever go back to what it was like before the error? Can we regain the purity or “paradise lost” after the sin? For example, if a person steals, will that person ever be the same as if they never stole in the first place? If one was unfaithful to one’s spouse, will the relationship ever be the same… can it ever be the same?
To be clear, some mistakes are indeed minor in the larger scheme of things. For those, we may very well get back to our original place. If someone stole a towel from a hotel, you can send it back or maybe financially reimburse the company (I recall a guy in my yeshiva days who did just that). After feeling the necessary sense of shame, you can pretty much forget about it, if you indeed make a solid commitment not to do it again. It was a slight lapse and was easily rectified.
On the other hand, there are some actions that make an indelible mark on us forever. They alter the course of our life, sending it into a completely new direction than we ever anticipated. The unfaithful spouse, or the husband who hit his wife did indeed change the relationship forever. No matter how much regret and apologizing he or she may do, no matter how many promises never to do it again, the relationship will never be the same. This is a simple fact of life.
Now that may sound like a downer but don’t get depressed because we all live with all sorts of Plan B’s in our lives. And the fact of the matter is that most of history is dominated by Plan B. Adam and Eve were to have lived eternally in the Garden of Eden but they did not listen to God’s command not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and were thrown out. Plan B has been in effect ever since. The Jewish People were supposed to have entered into the Land of Israel soon after receiving the Torah at Sinai, but instead wandered for forty years – not the Plan A that God had in mind. There was not supposed to be the destruction of our Temples and Jerusalem falling into foreign hands. The Jewish nation was not supposed to be scattered to the four corners of the globe, but this is what happened in our history and in some ways we are all the better for it.