Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The 3 Ts

On Rosh Hashanah we declare: “But repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree!” In Hebrew, these constitute the 3 Ts: Teshuva, Tefilah and Tzedaka.

Teshuva (repentance) a central theme of the High Holidays, means more than just saying “sorry.” Teshuva, means recognizing one’s errors and making an effort not to repeat them. In many ways, teshuva is a private act because one must be introspective to recognize one’s own mistakes.

Tefilah (prayer) is the acknowledgment of God as the King and Ruler of the universe. Tefilah is almost private, but not quite. It is a conversation between the person and God.

Tzedaka (charity) is a critical step necessary to reverse an evil decree simply because it constitutes an action. The performance of this mitzvah affects the person giving, the person receiving, and its benefits often extend to others as well. Tzedaka is reaching out beyond one’s self, and is thus a public act.

Everything that a person does affects the world in multiple ways. It affects the person’s relationship with him/herself, their relationship with the Divine and their relationship with their fellow human beings. The path to reversing the evil of the decree must therefore involve the private, the spiritual and the public spheres of our lives.

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