Teens > Elul: Repent, return, andBy Adina Erdfarb
Elul, the Jewish month that precedes Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), is known as the month of teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah, or repentance (returning to G-d), prayer, and charity/good deeds. For thirty days, we hear the shofar blasts every morning at the end of the Shacharit service. These sounds serve as a wake up call for us, to remind us that now is the time to ask Hashem(G-d) to forgive us the sins we have committed over the past year.
But what exactly is teshuvah? Teshuvah is not only something spiritual. Rather, to repeat the words of my softball coach, Rabbi Murray Sragow, teshuvah is something applicable to our everyday lives, especially in sports. Teshuvah means returning to your potential - getting your focus back on course. When engaging in teshuvah, we look to improve ourselves in order to fulfill our potential of being the best Jews we can be. Every person is born with a certain aptitude, but we have to put in a certain amount of effort to achieve that potential.
So too, every Elul, as school is beginning and tryouts are being held for various sports teams, we are also doing a form of teshuvah: we try our best to "return" to our athletic potential. Teshuvah in sports is very similar to teshuvah in Judaism. Like Judaism, sports require us to respect a higher authority (listening to our coaches), to show kindness to our fellows (getting along with our teammates and working as a team), and accepting that sometimes, unfavorable events befall us in life (taking the losses along with the victories). In addition, as Jews we try to act as much as possible with certain midot, or good attributes, in order to improve our neshamahs, or souls. Likewise, athletes find themselves constantly practicing their sport to become better players, and strengthening the good attributes that will lead to athletic success.
So this Elul, when you are taking out your siddur (prayerbook) to pray, or taking out your basketball sneakers for the new season, though the two actions seem totally unrelated, in essence, they are exactly the same. Striving for your personal best can be both spiritual and physical, and teshuvah is not just a term that applies to the month preceding Rosh Hashanah - but all year round.
Adina Erdfarb is an 11th grader at Bruriah High School in New Jersey.
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