A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with someone about health and home remedies. During the conversation, we talked about cough syrup and how it really works.
It actually affects the neural pathway. It stops the brain from sending a signal to the throat that makes us cough. In other words, cough syrup works on the brain, not the throat.
Cough suppressant does nothing to actually heal the throat or lungs (usually an upper respiratory infection). It treats the symptom, not the disease.
That’s what came to mind as I was thinking about Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. It’s the day when YAHUAH makes atonement for our beings and cleanses us.
It's the day when we finally deal with the root cause of all our problems.
“And this shall be for you a law forever, to make atonement for the children of Yisra’el, for all their sins, once a year.”
The Purpose of Teshuvah
Leading up Yom Kippur, the most important day of the year, we’ve been preparing ourselves with sincere teshuvah (repentance). We started at Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the sixth month.
For the entire month, we focused on what we needed to change in our lives, and we did our best to put those changes into action.
Then, on Yom Teruah (aka Rosh Hashanah), we kicked it up a notch. For the ten days between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, we elevate our teshuvah to a greater level.
We watch ourselves carefully so that we not sin. We put in extra effort to do good deeds and to follow mitzvot (commandments). We say extra prayers with more concentration and sincerity than usual. We read and learn more Torah.
Whatever we need to do to make our teshuvah real and complete, we do. We put forth our best effort.
Why? What’s the purpose of all this teshuvah?
It’s for the healing of our soul.
Our sins cause internal spiritual damage.
Just like a smoker damages his lungs with cigarettes, so too we damage our soul with our sins.
When we sin, we bring spiritual sickness upon ourselves. It’s our own fault. It’s our own doing.
We choose to do things we shouldn’t do, and we choose not to do things we know we should do. We choose to behave the way we do, speak the way we speak, and think the way we think.
We bring sickness upon ourselves. We made the damage, so we must do the repair - with teshuvah.
Symptoms of a Bigger Problem
At the beginning of Elul, we sat and analyzed our past year. We took an end-of-year accounting of our life. We took note of the good, and we took note of the bad.
All of the bad that we experienced was a result of an internal sickness of the soul. Every trial and every problem we faced was merely a symptom of that sickness. We damaged our soul with our sins, and we distanced ourselves from YAHUAH.
Because of this, we reaped the consequences. The more we distanced ourselves from YAHUAH, the more we alienated ourselves from His kindness. We blocked His Light from our lives.
This results in problems, struggles, frustrations, stress, physical sickness, financial hardship, and the like. They could be major problems or minor stresses. The could be ongoing struggles or one-time frustrations that pop up out of nowhere.
All of these negative experiences are mere symptoms. They are the exterior visible indicators of an internal sickness - the damaged soul.
If we don’t treat the disease itself, the symptoms will never truly go away. They’ll keep coming back until the underlying problem is resolved.
Many times, we spin our wheels and stress ourselves out trying to fix the symptoms. We do whatever we can to get money. We try every possible angle to solve our problems. We look anywhere and everywhere trying to chase down a solution. We depend on people, medicines, jobs - anything! - to fix our situation.
We’re treating the symptoms, not the disease.
Sure, we may feel a little relief, but it’s just like taking a spoonful of cough syrup. We’re treating the symptom, but unless we do teshuvah, the underlying issue is still there. The problems/symptoms will arise again.
That’s why sometimes it feels like no matter what we do, we’re still struggling, and we’re still suffering in some area. It’s because we don’t take it to heart to do real teshuvah and fix the root cause of it all - our ailing soul.
Ultimate Day of Healing
This is why we need teshuvah. Teshuvah treats the sickness itself. It repairs the soul. When we do real, sincere teshuvah, our soul heals, and the symptoms go away. Our struggles and problems slowly start to fade out of our life.
Yes, sometimes they slowly fade. Just like physical healing is a process, so too is spiritual healing a process. It takes time.
Until we come to Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of healing.
It’s like taking a massive dose of a powerful spiritual antibiotic.
Yom Kippur takes away all the causes of our spiritual sickness.
“For on that day he makes atonement for you, to cleanse you, to be clean from all your sins before יהוה [YAHUAH]." (Wayyiqra/Leviticus 16:30)
On Yom Kippur, YAHUAH atones for our sins. He forgives us, atones for us, and pardons us. He cleanses us from our sins, and all the sickness of our soul is healed.
But there is a caveat: we must do teshuvah.
This means we have to:
confess our sins out loud
regret our actions - wishing we had never done them
feel sorry and remorse over what we did to YAH and to others
commit to never doing them again
This too is a process. Real, complete teshuvah takes time. That’s why we had the whole month of Elul and the ten days from Yom Teruah to Yom Kippur. That’s 40 days of turning ourselves around and showing YAH how serious we are about making a change.
Our level of teshuvah determines the level of atonement we receive from YAHUAH. If we come into Yom Kippur with half-hearted teshuvah, then we’ll only get a half-dose of His spiritual “medicine.”
This means we may start the healing process, but it may take time and continued teshuvah for our spiritual healing to be complete.
We may not be punished for our sins (having received atonement), but we weren’t exactly granted a full pardon. We may still have to go through a few things and really prove to Him that we’ve changed.
However, if we come into Yom Kippur wholehearted - having done our best effort at teshuvah, with full remorse over our sins, and a sincere commitment to do better and not sin again - then, we’ll get the full dose of the spiritual “medicine.”
We’ll receive forgiveness, atonement, and pardon. This is complete spiritual healing. The negative symptoms will vanish from our lives.
After receiving "treatment" and getting healed on Yom Kippur,
it’s up to us to maintain a healthy soul by adopting a teshuvah-lifestyle.
We’re human beings, so we will sin. But if we live a teshuvah-lifestyle, then we’ll abstain from sin as much as possible. We’ll sin less and less as we continue to grow closer to YAHUAH. If we do slip up, then we’ll quickly repair the damage with immediate teshuvah.
As we commit to a teshuvah-lifestyle, we’ll not only see the negative symptoms disappear, but we’ll also begin to see all the positive benefits of a healthy soul.
We’ll see our lives begin to flourish. More and more good will arise. Peace, joy, physical health, good livelihood, stability, security, and many other blessings will increase.
All this because we treated the disease and not just the symptoms.
YAHUAH is righteous, and YAHUAH is trustworthy.
If we do teshuvah, He will forgive us, atone for us, and pardon us. He will heal us completely and bless us with a good life.
May we all be strengthened to do teshuvah and to observe the Day of Atonement as YAHUAH commanded.
May YAHUAH bless us with forgiveness, atonement, and pardon. May He heal us completely and grant peace to our being.
May we all be sealed in the Book of Good Life.
So be it.