On Wednesday evening, September 18, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser wowed an audience at Congregation Anshei Shalom in Jamaica Estates with a shiur on how to do tikun ha’nefesh (repairing the soul).
He stated that “we all need a lot of refurbishing before the Y’mei HaDin. Sometimes a person doesn’t know where to start.”
He taught that when we want to fix ourselves, we have to know where we went wrong. “When was the first time I went off the path? I have to find the root of all things.” He shared a story about the Ben Ish Chai that demonstrated how the person who came to him kept digging himself deeper and deeper into sin. The Ben Ish Chai taught: “When a person wants to do t’shuvah, there is no excuse.” A person has to admit that he did the sin and he has no reason. The tikun involves full disclosure, realizing there was no reason for committing the sin.
When Adam HaRishon did the big, first sin in the Garden of Eden, Hashem asked, “What did you do?”
Adam replied, “I ate and I’m going to eat more.”
Hashem loved this answer, because it showed that Adam was a candidate for t’shuvah. Adam knew himself. He had frailties of human nature and he was not afraid to admit this.
Rabbi Goldwasser taught that a main point for tikun ha’nefesh is that a person has to own up to his responsibility. He noted that B’nei Yisrael were carrying idols over their heads as they left Egypt. How could that be? Moshe said to Hashem, “What do you want from them? They saw idolatry in Egypt. Give them a chance.” Moshe won. There are circumstances in today’s world. There are a lot of difficulties and obstacles. We received a covenant, a bris, with the yud-gimel (13) attributes of Hashem. “Whoever says them in his or her t’filah will not be returned empty.” Hashem told Moshe that when B’nei Yisrael is deep in sin, they should recite the yud-gimel attributes. We recite them six times on Yom Kippur. The end of the list says that Hashem will cleanse us. “Hashem forgives everybody, but they have to do t’shuvah.”
Rabbi Goldwasser continued: “Hashem says to do one thing. Cry one time. Take one step. Do one action.” He pointed out that a serious transgression may require challenges and suffering. “When a person feels responsible and makes changes, then Hashem blesses him or her with all the brachos.
He shared that on Yom Kippur we receive kapparos for everything – even chilul Hashem can be granted s’lichah during N’ilah.”
He quoted a great rav who taught that when someone comes and asks for help, you don’t say to him, “Go.” You have to have compassion. He shared the famous story about Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi who told the little calf to go to the slaughter because that was what she was made for; Hashem punished him because he should have had compassion on the calf.
Rabbi Goldwasser shared a story about an elderly woman who came to ask him if she should call her brother whom she hadn’t spoken to in seven years. Rabbi Goldwasser was adamant. “Call him now.”
The brother asked her why she didn’t call in all these years. It turned out that the brother was making aliyah and he wanted to see her before he went.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that the area in which we feel the weakest is the one that we are really the strongest. “You can become the greatest in that area, so the yeitzer ha’ra tries to convince you that you are weak in that area. “That’s the reason we come here to this world. That’s the tikun we’re supposed to do.”
He concluded that “Hashem is watching each and every one of us, and He knows us. When a person looks into his life and sees what he can repair and what he can do to come closer to Hashem, where he could do things a little better, then Hashem says, that’s the person who comes with his heart.”
By Susie Garber