During this time of Elul, we ask YHVH to search us and reveal ANY wrongs that we have not yet made right, any areas of our lives we still need healing in, and any issues we have not yet resolved in order to make them right. Most often, teshuvah, is translated as “repentance;” however, this doesn’t accurately capture the fullness of this word’s meaning. Teshuvah means to return – to God, to His ways, to our original state of purity as intended by God.
Inevitably, hurt and pain enter our lives. We become broken and parts of our original-self are strewn about, seemingly beyond repair. We do what we can to try getting past the pain; we “forgive” the person who hurt us and we allow God to heal us. We ask for forgiveness and repent for what we’ve done. So why, then, does it seem that there are some people and circumstances we can’t seem to get away from? Why does it seem like we keep going around the mountain again and again over the same issue?
The only way we can truly be mended is to make teshuvah or return to YHVH. Even when others hurt us and we feel we aren’t at fault, the hurt and brokenness we experience creates a disconnect between us and that person, which in turn creates a disconnect with YHVH. It is only through turning to God and allowing Him to walk us through the process of forgiveness/repentance can the necessary healing take place.
One of the most difficult parts of Elul is realizing there are still hurts and wounds in our life we thought had been addressed years ago – hurts that have both been inflicted on us and that we have inflicted on others. Often times we allow for surface level healing or forgiveness to take place without ever addressing the root of the issue. We pick the flower off the dandelion but never pull the root out of the ground. As a result, the weed keeps popping back up. It can be hard to revisit these old wounds but by facing them, and not avoiding them, true healing and forgiveness can occur.
In the Hebrew tradition, there are three levels of forgiveness/repentance. While the levels are connected, they each offer their own unique challenges. The cycle of forgiveness is a living process that is completely dependent on our actions, so you may find yourself going back and forth through these phases as you forgive/repent.
The first stage in the process of forgiveness/repentance is slichah. In Hebrew, this means to pardon. In fact, if you ever spend time in Israel and need to say “excuse me,” you will actually say “slichah.” It is the most basic level of forgiveness/repentance. Its primary focus is on man; specifically the other person involved in the situation. When in this initial phase, it can often feel chaotic and difficult to make sense of things. Before we can deal with the root of the matter, we must forgive/ask forgiveness of the other person in the situation.
When we look at the gematria* for the word slichah, the picture we get is that through faith, grace, mercy and our confidence in YHVH, covenants of new beginnings are established between men. Furthermore, the Shepherd teaches the man who surrenders how to build a wall that divides him from the outside chaos.
This is a beautiful picture describing how pardoning someone/asking for pardoning can bring healing and new beginnings in a relationship. More so, through the process of slichah, God can also teach us how to build walls that keep us from outside chaos. However, these are not the emotional walls that we put up to keep people and relationships out but, rather, these are the walls that keep us in the Father’s House and stop us from returning to the hurt we have experienced or inflicted.
These walls are comparable to being in the Father’s House. There is a wall that divides us from those on the outside of His house. This is similar to the parable of the wedding feast. Inside are the honored guests who accepted the invitation to the marriage feast; outside the wall are those who rejected the invitation where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness (slichah) with You, that You may be feared. Psalm 130:1–4
The second level of forgiveness/repentance is mechilah, from the root word mochul meaning circle or cycle. In Hebrew, this word means to abolish or wipe away. In this phase, God teaches us how to let go; to be free from the power that others hold over you. The focus of mechilah is on you. In my opinion, this is the hardest level of forgiveness because for most of us it is very difficult to get over the obstacle of one’s own self.
Many times we hold on to the hurts and justify why shouldn’t let them go. Or we hold on to the guilt of what we did and refuse to believe that we could be given forgiveness. When we let go of this hurt and guilt, we are finally able to receive a vital piece of healing within ourselves. We are letting go of the power that others hold over us and instead returning that power back to YHVH.
The gematria* for the word mechilah gives us this picture: The coming plan of YHVH for new beginnings brought through confidence in YHVH’s covenants of faith, grace, and mercy. Further, the Shepherd becomes the wall that divides the man who surrenders from the outside chaos.
By allowing the hurt and guilt to be wiped away, YHVH can then bring about His new beginnings through faith, grace, and mercy. By completely surrendering to His healing, we also see that YHVH becomes the wall that divides us from the outside chaos. Notice that in this level, there is no mention of others like in the first stage. In this stage, you let go of everything else and come face-to-face with YHVH alone.
Show me favour, O Elohim, according to Your kindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash me completely from my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You alone, have I sinned, and done evil in Your eyes; that You might be proven right in Your words; be clear when You judge. See, I was brought forth in crookedness, and in sin my mother conceived me. See, You have desired truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You make me know wisdom. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I am clean; wash me, and I am whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my crookedness. Create in me a clean heart, O Elohim, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:1-10
The third and final stage of forgiveness/repentance is kapparah, which means to make atonement. After doing the hard work in the first two stages, it is in this final stage that we can be made whole again. While we certainly need YHVH’s help in every stage, it is this stage where He takes center stage and where only He can do the necessary work. In this stage, we must let go of the broken pieces of our lives — other people, ourselves, guilt, shame, and hurt — and let YHVH take over and make us whole again.
The gematria* shows us that kapparah is the faith, grace, and mercy that will restore the balance between us and others and us and God through new beginnings. And also that the man who completely surrenders and allows his mouth to be tamed by YHVH will be raised up as the head.
This tells me that when we allow ourselves to forgive and be forgiven, we are made whole again, we have balance restored in our relationships, and we are given a new beginning! That is true freedom! We can also see that the person who completely surrenders to the process of forgiveness/repentance and allows their mouth to be tamed, will be raised up by YHVH.
The Word tells us, “out of the mouth, the heart speaks.” For this reason, YHVH tames and softens the heart of the one who forgives/repents. This means that once you have truly forgiven/been forgiven, you cannot bring up the matter anymore. It is over and done with. You cannot make snide remarks or hold it against people in any way. You cannot allow the enemy to use it to bring guilt and shame on you any longer. By surrendering to forgiveness and the softening our hearts, we let our hurt, anger, guilt, and shame go. It is as far as the east is from the west. Only then can YHVH make us “the head and not the tail.”
On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you. Leviticus 25: 9b-10a
Coming Full Circle
The process of forgiveness/repentance is not easy – it takes a healthy dose of courage to make it through. But once you do, the end result is a beautiful, spotless, whole Bride – purified through the refiner’s fire.
Did you notice some common themes for the different levels of forgiveness/repentance? Faith, grace, and mercy are concepts we can see throughout the process. It took me a while to see the connection, but now I understand that it takes an incredible amount of faith, grace, and mercy to forgive someone for what they’ve done or to forgive yourself for what you’ve done. But just as Yeshua extended faith, grace, and mercy to us, so we must now extend it to others and ourselves. It’s no wonder that all along the way YHVH reminds us to never lose sight of these.
New beginnings also had a prominent role in the forgiveness/repentance process. I believe this is because YHVH doesn’t want us to remain stuck where we are. He wants us to move forward – always growing stronger through the purification and refining process.
I think this also shows us that YHVH has a different perspective than us on what forgiveness/repentance truly means. We tend to view our hurt or guilt as something that sticks with us and never really leaves us. We pick up the pieces and try to move on, albeit a little worse for wear.
But YHVH wants us to completely move forward! To never look back, to never be that person again, and to never let anyone but Him have power over us. In His infinite mercy and grace, He gives us a completely new beginning! It’s up to us to take hold of it by making teshuvah and returning to Him.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24