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Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk reveals a teaching about the portion Re’eh that I find to be both beautiful and practical. He begins a discussion about teshuvah. And as we are getting very close to the month of Virgo, the month of cleansing and teshuvah, we want to awaken the deeper understanding of what we need to change.
Where does the strength to change and cleanse come from? Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk tells us that in the Zohar it says the power to change and cleanse was created even before the creation of this world. Which means that the aspect of change, the ability to cleanse, is already invested in all of creation. The Zohar says many times that “man is a small world,” meaning our creation is an aspect of everything that is in this world. We're made up of all the spiritual and physical aspects of this world, which means that we're made up of teshuvah as well. If teshuvah was an aspect that was there before the creation of this world, and it was invested into all creation, it means that we have the power to change and the ability to cleanse already within us.
Therefore, no matter where we might find our self or our soul, even if we have fallen all the way to the ends of darkness, there's nothing that we could do of a negative nature that we do not have the ability to correct.
Sometimes we think that we have to go to somebody who will help us correct. Of course, it's helpful to get assistance from others. But we have to know that no matter where we have fallen, no matter what darkness we find ourselves in, we already have the power and ability within us to change it. Because from even the moment before we were created, the ability to change everything, the ability to cleanse everything, was put within us.
And therefore, Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk says, and it's a beautiful and amazing thing, that no matter how low a person goes, he must know that already created within him, from before the creation of this world, is the ability to cleanse and change.
How do most of us think about change, cleansing, or teshuvah? We think, “I've fallen. I've done these negative actions. Now I have to find a way to change it and cleanse it.” However, Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk is saying that the way to change it and cleanse it not only exists, but also already existed before we fell, because we're made up of teshuvah, of the ability and power to change, grow, and cleanse. We don't have to find a way, because we already have it within us. No matter where we fall or what we’ve done, we have to know that the path of correction, cleansing, and elevation was given to us even before we were created. It's not something that we have to go outside and find. And Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk tells us it is just this thought, this consciousness itself, which gives us the strength to change.
If we think we’ve done all these negative things and now have to find some way to change and cleanse it, we’re wrong. Because that way is there already. That power of teshuvah already exists within us. And therefore Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk says this is what it means that when an individual wants to cleanse, he's given all the assistance. The awakening has to come from us, but we already have the cleansing within us.
We now know that when we are awakened to realizing the negative things we have done, the path and strength of cleansing it is already there within us; we just need to use it. We don't need to find a way. And when we have that consciousness of knowing that the path of correction, cleansing, and elevation is already within us, we awaken it. We awaken its Light, and that begins the process of changing us for the better.
As Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk says, even if an individual has found himself in the depths of darkness, he shouldn’t go try to find the path to teshuvah, because the path is within him. This path was given to all of us before we were even born. And when we have that consciousness and we awaken the power of teshuvah through that understanding, it starts shining to us. And then, of course, we do the work as well, but it has to begin with this consciousness.
We don't need to look anywhere to find the path to change. We don't need to look anywhere to find the path to cleanse or elevate. We just need to know that it's within us. And when we really know that the Creator created it within us before we were even born, then it begins to shine for us, and then we’ll do whatever actions have to come afterwards. The ability to change has to do with a person's connection to this Light, this energy of teshuvah, and once we awaken it, there's nothing that can stop us from changing, elevating, or cleansing. Why? Because we know it exists in us already.
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