Elul Reflections 27 – September 18

Rabbi Richard Steinberg

In the Torah portion, Behar-Behukotai, we read the Hebrew word “Yimachu”. There are several translations for this particular word. One commentator translates it as “heartsick”, another states “rot away”, and yet another teaches that it is “melt away”.

The context of the use of this word is found in a discussion about how the people will feel when they do not follow God’s commandments. The text suggests that such pain will then transform into repentance and bring the people towards God.

When we are honest with ourselves to recognize that we have done wrong, feelings of emptiness, heartsickness and shame pervade the soul as if we were melting or rotting away from our best selves. In the course of the human experiences, these feelings ought to serve a purpose. When feeling Yimachu, a natural response to the failure of integrity, we would do well to let those feelings be a trigger towards repentance and seeking forgiveness. Too often, we sweep our feelings under the rug and pretend that our failures never happened. Such denial burns deep within the soul and most likely hurts others as well.

Let our heartsickness inspire us to be remorseful and then to lift ourselves up and become exemplary in our own eyes, in the eyes of others and mostly, in the eyes of God.


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