The king gave his trusted servant a beautiful vessel to safeguard for an unknown period of time with a request that the vessel be returned to the king at a future time. Over time, the servant became careless and the vessel broke. Unable to fix it on his own, the servant ran to various people to repair the vessel so he would be able to return it whole as he had received it.
He went to the king’s top advisors who informed them they do not know how to repair the vessel. There is no recourse for him but to tell the king. The man felt too ashamed to inform the king of his carelessness. It then occurred to him that he could go to the manufacturer of vessels and explain his plight to him. He could prepare another vessel just like the one he has been given. This man also informed him that he had to go directly to the king. He could make another vessel resembling the vessel he had been given but the king would surely know the difference.
The servant eventually came to terms that there was no recourse but to confess to the king what he had done due to his extreme carelessness and lack of mindfulness. The king responded to his confession. “ I know that you sought out others to help repair this vessel, but know that I am the one who can fix broken vessels and restore them to new. ( Story attributed to Maharal of Prague)
Our souls are those beautiful holy vessels God placed within us to guide and protect us during our brief journey on this earthly plane. They embody God’s love and light within us. When we are in touch with our own souls, we are expanded and know that we are not bound by the limitations of the past. We can be the beautiful people we truly are.
We only need to strengthen our capacity to receive and embody God’s light and love.This is what “Teshuvah “ is all about, returning to our true essence. We begin by being honest and acknowledging that we do not always give our souls the nourishment she needs to shine. We regret that we have even covered up her light and our access to our own soul by leading her into all kinds of negative experiences. We then express our regret to God and to our own souls as well as our desire and commitment to do better in this upcoming year.
At this holiest of times, in the days before Yom Kippur, we also need to do an inventory to identify if we have hurt anyone intentionally or unintentionally. If we have hurt others, we need to ask for forgiveness. If we have been hurt by others we need to forgive them for our own sake. Holding anger and resentment only hurts us.
In forgiving others, it is helpful and important to bear in mind that forgiveness is not the same as condoning or accepting a negative or harmful behavior or act. We can forgive a person when we see the soul, the light, within him and yet it may still be necessary to protect, and guard ourselves against the negative behavior of his personality. It is helpful to bear in mind that when people hurt others it is mostly an expression of their own wounding rather than their intention to hurt another. Nevertheless, it may be hard for some people to truly forgive others as much as they try to do. The hurt has been too great, or the person who has hurt you has not even expressed the desire for forgiveness. Forgiveness sometimes take time with lots of meditation and prayer.
In the days before Yom Kippur, many people ask for forgiveness from people even if they did not feel that they hurt them. It is possible that people can carry inner resentment towards us that they have not previously shared. If you do carry resentment towards someone, sometimes but not always, it is good to express it so the person has an opportunity to apologize and clarify any misunderstandings.
By seeking forgiveness and forgiving others, we remove the barriers to our own souls. We purify and free ourselves. According to Rabbi Hayim Vital, in “ Gates of Holiness” it is “Through our emotional qualities we connect our souls and Godliness to our physical bodies or we disconnect. If we are overcome with anger and jealousy, the soul begins to depart. By our own negative thoughts, speech and actions, we set up blocks and barriers between the flow of soul energy into the body”. For our own physical and spiritual well being, we must release the hold that anger and jealousy has on us. In the days before Yom Kippur, make a call to friends or family or send an email if a call is too much for you.
And finally most importantly, at this time, we strengthen our connection with our own souls through doing mitzvot, prayer and meditation. When we release the negative and strengthen the positive, our souls will shine and radiate peace and joy. All personal transformation requires that we go beyond our limited sense of self. We do not give up. We do this with God’s help.
Like the servant in the beginning story, we turn to God at this time and any time to help us to repair our broken vessels. God knows how to do that. God can heal us. Yom Kippur is the most special day for God to cleanse and bless us. God will remove the hold negativity has had on our lives. It is a divine gift that we are cleansed and purified on Yom Kippur. We know that we have received the blessing of Yom Kippur and being close to God any time of the year when our hearts are filled with love, our minds are expanded and we are able to forgive others and ourselves.