Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe
By Dr. Erica Brown
OU Press, Maggid Books
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, are fraught with tension as we try to focus on teshuvah. But how genuine is our repentance? How sincere is our quest? In her remarkable new book, Dr. Erica Brown plumbs the depths of human nature as she explores the questions that swirl around the teshuvah process. This is a book targeted to contemporary Jews with contemporary problems, from eating disorders to existential angst. This is a book that will grab your attention and not let go.
The book is divided into ten chapters, one for each day of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, with each chapter devoted to self-improvement in one particular area. In her compelling style, Dr. Brown marshals traditional Jewish sources as well as literature, psychology and other disciplines to make her motivational and inspirational points. Here is an excerpt from her distillation of a lesson from the Biblical narrative of Abraham chasing out Hagar:
Sometimes we fall in love with our problems. They become us. We cannot live without the drama. We are too restless to appreciate the abundance that God has given us. Our problems give us something to talk about and someone else to blame. We do not accept our own complicit role in our problems. It was easy enough for Hagar to blame Abraham for not giving her enough water to sustain her, for sending her away, for making her a helpless player in a narrative far larger than herself. It is easy enough to sit down and cry and become so entangled in a problem that we don’t even think about how to change it. We blame others. We blame God. But it doesn’t advance us. Blame was not going to save Ishmael, and it’s not going to save us.
Each chapter is followed by texts for additional study from Maimonides’ Laws of Repentance, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s The Path of the Just and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s The Lights of Repentance. Each chapter also concludes with a “Life Homework” section containing real-life behavioral suggestions incorporating the lesson of the chapter.
Let Dr. Erica Brown help you navigate the process of teshuvah this year.