We call the process of repentance tishuvah or “return”. This is very telling. The process we engage in during this Jewish month of Elul and through Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot is not a process of becoming someone we are not, but rather a more organic process of getting in touch with who we really are -humans who are made in the image of God, who are at our core moral and good, and who are, even if it is difficult at times for us to connect to, spiritual, endowed with the ability to imitate and cleave to the infinite and harmonious Divine.
The process of tishuvah involves, according to Maimonides book of Jewish law, 4 stages. First we must feel charatah, regret; then we must verbally confess our sins or lack of mitzvoth to before God; next we must ask and receive forgiveness from those we have sinned against, whether other people or God. Lastly we must change, becoming people who are different than before, people who are not drawn to the sin in the same way as before. Its not change from who we essentially are, rather change back to who we are and can be. During the year lots of spiritually detrimental things cover over our Divine soul -money, desire, selfishness, ego, etc. During this time of year we are challenged to slowly uncover our soul from under all those things that are not really us, that cover us over, to be able to let go of the sinful things that we have come to take hold of during the year.
My best wishes for much love, returan, inspiration and insight during this High Holy Day season.
Rabbi Hyim Shafner