Teshuva is a central theme in the month of Elul, the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the 10 days of Teshuva and it culminates on Yom Kippur. Often translated as "repentance", in Chassidic teaching it is translated literally as "return". Teshuva is a return to self and our divine nature.
In order to understand Teshuva, we will start in an unlikely place, the bottom of the Kabbalistic tree containing the 10 Sefirot. The last of the Sefirot is Malchut.*
We are born with Malchut in its purest form; dignity, a deep trust and the ability to be with what is. In this state, our soul experiences connection to its source and is fully aligned with what it truly desires- connection to G-d.
This part of us can become wounded through life experiences and we lose connection with our Malchut. When we experience this fragmentation, we suffer from anxiety, a lack of trust (in ourselves and others) and we desire to control outcomes in an effort to feel safe. The part of us that is open and fluid, becomes more rigid and inflexible with our attempts to control everything around us.
Instead of leading to a feeling of safety, this rigidity tightens our grip and brings to a shattering and even more pain. This pain is manifest in different forms; spiritually, physically and psychologically.
The antidote to this is letting go and returning to our Malchut. The word Teshuva comes from 2 Hebrew words, "Tashuv Hei" Returning the Hei. G-d's name contains 4 letters, the last of which is Hei. This Hei is symbolic of Malchut, the last of the 10 Sefirot. Teshuva is returning our fragmented Malchut to its place in G-d's name where it is once again whole. It is the act of letting go and coming to a place of deep trust and flow with the divine plan.
Torah study, Mitzvot & prayer are the gateway to this return as they allow our souls to realign and connect with their source.
A Baal Teshuva is a "Master of Return". Teshuva is a continuous state that we engage in throughout our lives. The Hei will continue to be fragmented and our work is to reunite it with its source again and again. These 40 days are an opportune time to reflect on Teshuva and find a Mitzvah that we can introduce or increase in our daily lives to reconnect.