First off, for those who haven't read my teshuva season thoughts from last year, please check them out here. It was one of my earliest posts, long before this blog received any sort of following or prominent linkage (thanks Bad4), so I don't think many of the current readers have seen it.
Motzei Shabbos was my fifth first-night selichos at YU. Each year I receive an enormous amount of inspiration by the ruach-filled atmosphere in the beis medrish as President Joel leads us into the phase of Elul where the focus on teshuva kicks into high gear. Honestly, it's a scary time in my mind, since things begin to seem really serious. True, we've already had several weeks of L'Dovid HaShem Ori twice a day and shofar blowings after shacharis, but the overwhelming feeling of awe as the yomim noraim approach doesn't hit me until selichos start.
I think this teshuva-season I've been more distracted than usual, not really paying attention to the fact that I have a lot to answer for as well as a boatload of things to work on - things I should have put effort into this past year, things I slacked off where I should have, and new challenges that arose and confronted me with tests I'd never experienced and thus had little hope of passing. How many times have I failed to resist temptation, in things both big and small, when I could have - and should have - been stronger, putting the yetzer hara in his place as I know, deep down, with the strength I honestly know I possessed.
The primary source of my distraction - and this is far from an excuse, because what good are excuses before the Master of the Universe - has been the ongoing wedding preparations and general craziness of engagement. Aside from keeping my mind focused on other things instead of performing serious self reflection and cheshbon hanefesh, I have faced new tests wherein I know I've stumbled here or there, particularly in the realm of relating to, and showing proper sensitivity toward Another Shade of Grey (ASoG). Sure, I could just chalk it up to the whole "I'm a guy, you're a girl, and we just don't quite understand each other yet" notion, but I would like to think I'm a bit better than that. As I said, excuses don't really mean much at all.
Thankfully, she is a very forgiving person, and I tend to apologize profusely upon realizing I've made an error of some sort. There is a lot of adjusting yet to be done, more awaits us as the wedding approaches, and certainly even further nuanced points of compromising, etc will come up during our married life together. So no matter how gentlemanly a guy may be (a goal I aspire to), when it comes to male/female dynamics within a relationship, everyone has some growing room before things really come together.
I wish I could say I had the same enthusiastic, though appropriately humble, confidence I expressed in the aforementioned early post when I began this blog last year, but instead I'm just a bit worried. I have spent far too much time engrossed in my own concerns without giving HaShem due attention, which is definitely not a good thing in my mind. Granted, some of the distractions with regard to getting ready for the wedding have been entirely necessary and are proper preparation for the mitzvah of getting married. However, I have begun to think that I may have taken advantage of the "oh boy, I'm getting hitched" mindset to dodge other responsibilities that would normally have been at the forefront of my thoughts.
Anyway, here I am, a year after starting a hashkafa-based blog that transformed into a shidduch-based blog, soon-to-be-married and shouldering a boatload of responsibility the likes of which I have never dreamed of. I've been reading/learning the sefer "Yom Hachupa L'Chatan" in preparation for the wedding. The sefer ephasizes the significance of the wedding day and how it is akin to, and in many ways, surpasses the signficance of Yom Kippur. Whereas the average Joe (or Jo-anne) gets one Yom Kippur a year, the wedding day comes once a lifetime (hopefully). Not only that, it has the ability to wipe one's slate entirely clean!
I guess it's kind of nifty that I get to go through two Yom Kippur's in a somewhat short time span, especially since the annual Yom Kippur precedes my own person Yom Kippur, which will hopefully prepare me well for the boat-load of teshuva I need to do for this past year as well as the last 20-odd years of my life (and yes I know responsibility doesn't kick in until 13 and heavenly punishment until 20).
I have one friend who got married shortly before Rosh Hashana several years ago. I thought he was lucky since that meant he'd be going into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with a sparkling white neshama from kapara he received on his wedding day - what could be better! He replied in turn that while my idea had some merit, he had plenty of time over Sheva Brachos and Yom Tov to potentially make more mistakes and rack up enough aveiros to need teshuva all over again.
But, there is still time. As Rav Goldvicht emphasized in his pre-selichos drasha, the word "Hayom" as found in Tanach is darshened by Chazal to refer to Rosh Hashana. The overring point that he emphasized regarding the meaning of "Hayom" is that the power of teshuva has the ability to create a person anew - today. In performing a heartfelt teshuva shelayma, all the mistakes, sins, transgressions, both intentional and unintentional, from the past are completely wiped away - as though they never existed.
One particular example that he cited was the commentary of the Sfas Emes on the incident where Sara laughed at the angel's proclamation that she and Avraham would have a child within the year. HaShem confronts her and asks why she laughed - to which she replies that she didn't laugh. How could our fore-mother Sara dare to say that to HaShem's "face" when it was quite clear that she did, in fact, laugh just a few moments prior? The Sfas Emes explains that upon realizing that she had erred in expressing the laughter, she immediately did teshuva, regretting her outburst. Since teshuva, if done properly (and certainly she did teshuva whole heartedly) can totally erase the negativities of the past, her response that she had never laughed was actually true, from a certain point of view.
May we all merit to engage in proper introspection, find what we need to correct, and implement the necessary changes to improve ourselves and our actions for this coming year. May we all draw closer to our King and Creator, Who will hopefully recognize our sincere efforts to bend our will to more accurately represent what He desires of us in this world - and in doing so, may all our heartfelt requests for the coming year, for good health, happiness, success, sustained spiritual growth in Torah and Mitvos, and of course finding the proper zivug (or maintaining Shalom Bayis, as the case may be J) be speedily written and sealed for all of Klal Yisrael.