Practical Teshuva Workshop

By Dr. David Bernstein



Bring a pen, paper, and an open view of yourself.  Confidentiality assured.


Learn a lot about Teshuva during Ellul: hilchot teshuva, importance of teshuva, philosophy behind teshuva - but often learn teshuva in a very

general way, lacking practical, personal bent.  Purpose of this workshop is to bring all the lofty concepts down to earth, and down to you and your


This will be a critical stock-taking of oneself.  Usually, we remind ourselves of our good points.  Now is the time of year that is especially

good to do a cheshbon ha-nefesh, a more critical evaluation of ourselves.

Pirkei Avot:

הוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות!

One of the baalei Mussar:  we already judge ourselves l'kaf zchut, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, rationalizing, making excuses for

ourselves.  What is new here is that we should do the same for everyone else!


This is one time we want not to judge ourselves l'kaf zchut.  Tonight we will each try to judge ourselves the way we usually judge others – without

rationalizations, without excuses.


Will ask questions, with request for you to write down 2, or 3, responses.

Number not important - if I ask for 2, you can write 3.

I used to ask people to think for a minute before responding; I now think it

is better to respond immediately, with what comes to your mind, and not let

your mind censor out what you are really thinking.  So after the question, just start writing.


This is completely confidential - only you will see what you write.


1. 2 ways in which I can be a better daughter/son.

2. 2 ways in which I can be a better sister.

3. 3 ways in which I can be a more serious student.

4. 3 ways in which I can be a better roommate.


Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva:  2nd perek, halacha 9.

Two kinds of people we ask slicha from:  those who love us, and those who do not.  Both categories very important to ask selicha from; but much easier to ask from first category - after all, they love us.  Much harder to ask from people we have wronged who don't love us.  For next question:


5. 2 people I must ask slicha from (from each category)


Tell story of Marc Sackin, a"h.


6. Someone I need to tell something to.

7. 2 mitzvot I didn't do well, or didn't do enough, or at all.

8.  The 2 things I did this year that I am most proud of.

A woman named Sarah Rigler recently wrote:

We could have been magnanimous. Instead we were petty.

We could have been generous. Instead we were stingy.

We could have been honest. Instead we told self-serving lies.

We could have buoyed up others with kind words. Instead we wounded them with


We could have esteemed our parents for their ongoing contribution to our

lives. Instead we made them feel useless and outdated.

We could have made our homes sanctuaries of love and peace. Instead we

degenerated into bickering and blaming.

We could have spent our spare time studying the profundities of the


Instead we opted for cable TV.

We could have become the person God created us to be. Instead we settled for

a mediocre imitation.


A rebetzin Heller said that Judaism doesn’t want us to say: “Look at how evil I am if I could do x;” rather, Judaism wants us to say:  “How could a

person like me have done that!”


9.  Write 2 things I'm ashamed I did last year, 2 things which you think don’t reflect the real you.

10.  3 1 -sentence goals I've set for myself this year in Israel.


Has anyone ever asked you "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Usually, they don't mean what they are saying.  They really mean:  "What do you want to do as a profession when you grow up?"

I want to ask the question in a more literal way:  what do you want to BE (i.e. be like) when you grow up?"


The same Sara Rigler I quoted above wrote:  The "sins" we do teshuva for on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the instances we fell short of our full

potential self. One word for "sin" in Hebrew is chait, which means "missing the mark." The disparity between our full potential and our present reality fuels our heartfelt teshuva.



11. What do I want to be (not do) when I grow up?  What are the most important personal qualities that I want to develop so that they will characterize me?

12. How can I go about it - become the kind of person I want to be.

13.    2 people I look up to - and what it is I admire about them.


This last question may say as much about you as it does about them – what your values, goals and aspirations are.

You may even want to tell them what it is you admire about them.


Rambam:  3 stages of teshuvah - hakarat ha-chet, charata, kabbala l'atid.

We may have done #1 in certain areas; maybe even #2, and some of you may even have reached the third stage.


May you have a meaningful rest of Aseret Ymei Teshuva and Yom Kippur, and may we all be granted forgiveness and be granted a good year.