When, in the midst of the aseret yamei teshuvah - the ten days of teshuvah, you come to the inevitable thought that you are just repeating yourself. When it feels that each year you return to the same mistakes, the same inadequacies, the same failings; in this moment, I ask you to remind yourself of the following teaching of R’ Tzadok haKohen:
Sometimes it seems to a person that he has done teshuva and his sins have been forgiven, and then after some time he is aroused once again to bitterness over his sins, and he feels that these two thoughts are incompatible. But in truth both are genuine, for we hold that sins for which one confesses on Yom Kippur must be confessed again the next Yom Kippur - and this holds true even for sins which are forgiven immediately upon repentance… Just as there is no limit to the levels of a person, so is there no limit to the levels of teshuva.
—Tzidkat Hatzaddik, 134
When it feels that we are stuck in a cycle that we can’t break free of, it is nice to remember that there is this ongoing ascent. How might we confront our challenges this year? What knowledge and insight does “present me” have that “past me” lacked?
Write a letter to yourself for the eve of Yom Kippur. Coach yourself through the feelings of being stuck in an endless cycle. Help yourself see through fresh eyes the challenges that you face.