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Journey of Teshuvah 1: The Embarrassment of Youth

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

By Rabbi Daniel Lichman

This Elul, as the High Holy Days draw near, Rabbi Daniel will share a series of weekly reflections with us. Here is the first in the series...

Week 1: On the embarrassment of youth

The call:

‘Shout out you who have much potential but are stuck!’

the prophet calls to you in this week’s haftarah.

‘Fear not, you shall not be shamed, for you shall leave the shame of your youth(Isaiah 54:1, 6)


Whatever the nature of your particular stuckness - the inertia which is uniquely yours - you might be able to trace it to somewhere back in your youth.

Those sunny years - when you discovered desire

and then in the next moment and with equal force its shadow twin, shame.

What smart choices you made in that moment to protect you from shame! How you learnt to survive/flourish in the world!

You chose to make sure you knew everything so that no one could catch you out.

You learnt how to speak in a particular way to ensure that you would be heard.

You committed to helping others so that they would notice and approve of you.

You were sure that you must keep to the rules that were given to you so that you would be safe.

You knew that taking a risk could lead to trouble.

You were clear that it was not going to be you who rocked the boat.

You were sure that you would never become like them!

The prophet lovingly calls you back to the moment where you made that choice.


How can you love your young-self this week?

Some suggestions for a practice:

  • Find a photo of your teenage self and spend some time with her. What were her hopes/desires/loves? What were her wounds/hurts/pains?

  • Can you re-connect with anyone that knew you back then? Can you ask them to recall your young self - to remember for you the loving innocence of your youth that you still carry?

  • Listen to the music of your teenage years; revisit an important book from back then; look at your journals/diaries.

  • Can you recall any moments from when you were young which shine out with their perfection? Can you feel into its light? Can you let it shine through the stuckness and inertia and into the light of the now?

‘For a little while I forsook you,

But with vast love I will bring you back…

For a moment I hid my face from you;

But with kindness everlasting I will hold you in me

Says the Source of Love who redeems you’ (Isaiah 54:7-8)

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