05 Sep VAYELECH/SHABBAT SHUVA/YOM KIPPUR- RETURNING TO THE THRONE
The Gemara teaches, “Teshuvah [repentance] is great, because it reaches the Throne of Glory.”
What exactly does this mean? How does our teshuvah reach G-d’s throne in the heavens? And what is this supposed to teach us?
The answer is that our souls all originate from the Throne of Glory. We each possess a soul which began pure and pristine. It left its place in the heavens, right by Hashem’s throne, and was sent down to the earth, into a physical body. But with time, the soul loses its purity. We become distracted by the lures of the physical world, and so instead of focusing on nurturing the soul, we end up focusing on the body, on things like money, clothes, cars and fancy homes.
Teshuvah means returning to the throne. We restore our soul’s purity, so it becomes sacred like it was originally, before it came into this world. We focus again on Torah and mitzvot so our soul becomes cleansed and pure like it was by the throne.
This is why we spend so much time on Rosh Hashanah talking about תוכלמ, about Hashem being King over the world. if we look at the Rosh Hashanah prayers, this theme – תוכלמ†– is the predominant theme. This is what we repeatedly talk about – that Hashem is King over the universe. In fact, during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, we make a number of changes to our daily tefilot, but the only changes which are absolutely required, such that our prayer is not valid if we forget to make them, involve the word ךלמ†(king). If we forget to say this word, then our prayer is not valid and it must be repeated.
We spend so much time focusing on Hashem’s kingship because this is where our souls come from – His Throne in the heavens. We focus our attention on Hashem’s Throne to motivate ourselves to return to the throne – to remind ourselves that we have a sacred, pure neshamah, and we are here on this world to care for that neshamah and keep it pure.
There is a famous story told of a man who was traveling, and he came to visit the Hafetz Haim in his home. He entered the home, looked around, and noticed that the house was very scarce. There was very little furniture and the like that fills most other houses.
“Why do you barely have any furniture?” the man asked the great sage.
“Why don’t you have furniture with you here?” the Hafetz Haim replied.
“What do you mean? I’m traveling. Nobody takes furniture with them when they travel.”
“I’m also traveling,” the Hafetz Haim said. “I’m on a temporary journey in this world. I don’t really need furniture.”
During our time on earth, we get distracted by the “furniture,” by all the physical joys. This time of year reminds us to focus on our neshamah, the main part of our being, which is here on earth temporarily. It reminds that we have a pure soul from Hashem’s Throne, and we need to make our neshamah our highest priority in life so we can keep it pure and pristine just like it was back in the heavens.