"Who has achieved complete t'shuvah? A person who confronts the same situation in which he sinned and abstains, although that person has the potential to commit the sin again."
Moses Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 2:11
The word that comes to my mind as I read this prompt for contemplation is "persistence." T'shuvah requires more than acknowledgement and repentance, it requires persistence in making changes. However, I am struck by the thought that change to a life lived fully in G-d's house, in harmony with G-d, is about just as much about developing positive actions and habits as it is about ending negative actions.
This view about nurturing positive habits is very central to Judaism. Of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah nearly a third are affirmative commandments: "To know G-d exists;" "To love G-d;" "To honor the old and the wise;" "To learn Torah and to teach it;" "To affix the mezuzah to the doorposts and gates of your house;" "To read the Shema in the morning and at night;" "To leave the gleanings for the poor;" "To give charity according to one's means;" "To love the stranger;" "To honor father and mother," and many, many more.
Persistence means coming back again after a slip or a lapse; not using the lapse as an excuse to say, oh well, I messed up I may as well not bother. This is one of my failings. It is easier to keep commitments to change when we involve others in our decisions and activities -- even if the others are just out there on the Internet.
I missed yesterday, Elul 10, the workload piled up, and I did not take time for contemplation, prayer and writing. In my past tries at this practice missing a day inevitably meant stopping altogether. But I made a commitment to a larger audience (even if you are a small one) as well as a commitment to myself. So persist I will.
Involving others to help us persist, is one reason why Jews engage in group repentance at Yom Kippur. We all, communally and publicly admit to the entire range of human sins and promise to make amends and change in the coming year. The confessional prayer Ashamnu, in my Conservative/Reform synagogue is recited in both English and Hebrew. I prefer the Hebrew, it is both beautiful and solemn and intensely meaningful. The cantor sings the first line (Ashamnu or "We have trespassed") and the congregation sings the same line back; and then the pattern repeats, cantor then congregation through the entire litany of sins.
So in this coming new year I seek persistence, to return when I stumble to the path of persistence in both the affirmative actions and avoidance of negative actions.