What is the secret to making lasting resolutions?

In the first line of Avinu Malkeinu that is recited responsively, we ask Hashem to help us do “t’shuvah sh’leimah,” complete repentance. The addition of that descriptor, sh’leimah, makes it sound like there is another type of t’shuvah – one that is “incomplete” – which we do not want. And here I was thinking that one can either repent or not. What would incomplete t’shuvah look like? And, by contrast, what is the t’shuvah sh’leimah that we all are trying to achieve?

The birth of a new year is a time of reflection and resolution, when hope and inspiration fill the air. We dream about what this upcoming year holds in store for us, how we can make the rest of our lives the best of our lives. We all have ideas, ambitions, and aspirations that we yearn to bring to fruition, and the new year gives us “permission” to revisit these goals and breathe new life into them. For a brief moment, everything is crystal clear; we see our purpose and our path with vivid clarity. However, there is an underlying frustration that accompanies this time period, as well. If we reflect honestly, we often realize that our new year’s resolutions are awfully similar to those of last year, and the year before, and the year before…

Time is infused with infinite spiritual richness, and each point in time is a wave that carries with it layers of depth. The cycle of holidays is a course of spiritual progression that we can tap into as we advance towards our ultimate personal and collective destination. The cycle of Torah reading provides this same opportunity. Each parshah has unique ideas and concepts that are particularly relevant to the time of year when it is read. As we go through this cycle, year after year, we propel our kabalas haTorah forward one level higher every year. Every time we restart the Torah cycle, we begin the same Torah, but on a more elevated level, turning the circular Torah cycle into an elevating spiral in time.

T’shuvah requires a supporting “cast”!

As Rosh HaShanah approaches, we are reminded that sincere t’shuvah requires serious introspection and conscientious planning for a better year. The shofar alerts us that the time has come: We need to confess our wrongdoings, break habits, regret the past, and commit to a brighter future.

There’s a shoe, recitation of verses, and of course, some spit.

Of the very many (74!) mitzvos in Parshas Ki Seitzei, Chalitzah stands out as one of the most unusual. When a man dies without children (Rachamana litzlan), it is the obligation of his brother to marry the widow and build up the name of the deceased. One who refuses to do so must participate in the Chalitzah ceremony, in which his sister-in-law takes him to beis din, removes his shoe, and spits on the floor. (No, she does not spit on him, and she does not spit inside the shoe.)