There have been three news stories this week focusing on Orthodox Jews. One is a controversial takeover by Orthodox Jews of a school board, another about financial irregularities, and the third about a rabbi who spied on women in the mikveh. (The last story is close to home for me because it’s a synagogue I’ve attended several times for classes.)
Orthodox Rabbi Eliyahu Fink wrote a thoughtful response to these scandals that I find helpful for all who “have fallen short of the glory of God.” All of us need lessons in how to turn our failures and sin into something good for the glory of God.
Here’s an excerpt from Rabbi Fink’s essay A Better Orthodox reaction to the mikveh, East Ramapo scandals:
“One of the greatest gifts of Judaism is teshuvah — literally translated as “return,” and the Jewish word for repentance. Failure is inevitable. We are humans, and humans are flawed creatures who make mistakes. Judaism provides an opportunity to turn our errors into acts of goodness through the process of teshuvah. When we repent, we are actually closer to God than we were before we sinned. It’s as if a ribbon connects us to God. Sin cuts the ribbon into two, disconnecting us from God. True repentance ties the two pieces of ribbon together, reconnecting us. But the process of repairing the ribbon makes the ribbon shorter and reduces the distance between the two ends of the ribbon. Teshuvah reattaches us to God and makes us closer than we were before we sinned.
In any good relationship there will be mistakes that disconnect the two parties. These are opportunities for teshuvah. Whenever a relationship needs to be repaired, if it’s done right, the two parties should be closer after the “return” than they were before the relationship was harmed.
Traditionally, there are three steps to teshuvah: Acknowledgement, regret and reform. These are the three elements necessary to repair any broken relationship or any breach of trust. The Orthodox Jewish community must take these three steps to earn back the trust of Orthodox Jews and the general public.”–Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
Read the whole essay here.