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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on September 25, 2020

If there is one thing the world needs right now, it is healing. Physically and spiritually, the world is lacking wholeness on many levels.  Luckily, tis the season for healing on both of these levels.  We find that repentance and healing are deeply intertwined.  For one, in one of the classic High Holiday prayers, ‘our Father, our King’, the line about repentance is followed immediately with a line about healing.  The Talmud says it even more explicitly, “Rabbi Ḥama bar Ḥanina said: Great is repentance, because it brings healing to the world, as it is stated: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for My anger has turned from him” (Hosea 14:5).”  When we repent and heal internally, that paves the way for a more general healing for the world as the Divine responds in kind. But what is the key to successful healing?

              For that we need to look at a fascinating encounter between the first father and son in world history fresh off the first major homicide in world history.  Adam meets Cain post fratricide and asked, “What happened with your judgement”? He replied, I repented and received clemency” When Adam heard this he hit himself in his head and said, “Such is the power of tshuva, and I was unaware of it” At that time, Adam composed A song for the Shabbos day”.  There is much to explore here- why did Adam hit himself? Why did he not know about tshuva? Why did that lead Adam to write a Psalm for Shabbos?

              We live in a world where what is done is done.  A car that is driven off of its lot loses half of its value and it will never be new again. It is not intuitive to say that despite an action that was done, we can erase it in some way, and even say that the negative is a positive as it spurred future growth. Adam hits himself in the head as if to say, I didn’t realize we could recreate reality.  But to do that, we need time to reflect.  Adam right away wrote a song about Shabbat because he understood that a set time to reflect each week was the crucial dimension that makes repentance possible.  This is why sickness in Judaism is viewed as something disconnected. The root of the word ‘sick’ in Hebrew, ‘chole’ is related to the world ‘chol’, which means secular.  It is being in a distracted, unbalanced state not connected to anything bigger. When we repent via reflection we rebalance and find our inner connection to something bigger that ensures we live both a healthier spiritual life, and in turn, a healthier physical life.