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You Can’t Fix What Isn’t Broken: The Indispensable Errors of Religious and Spiritual Growth

Tsvi Blanchard / September 10, 2015

A Rosh Hashana paradox: The longer we live the more we understand our lives as a story and a journey. We all have our developing life narratives. But our stories and journeys are complex and complicated. Ironically, the best of who we are today sometimes derives in part from some of the most serious faults and misdeeds of our yesterday. Making mistakes, both moral and religious, seems necessary for our individual spiritual development and growth. Teshuva, however, requires regretting what we did wrong however necessary it was for our growth. In this class, we will explore Jewish texts and our own life experience that deal with the paradox of repentance in a world of indispensable moral and religious errors. What exactly is regret about errors that were necessary for our moral and religious growth?  How do we avoid using the idea of necessary errors as an excuse for bad behavior? Is the logic of regret the same for “necessary sins” against other people as for “necessary sins” against God?  How can we sometimes consciously turn what was a sin into the origin of what is a positive good?




Tsvi Blanchard

Tsvi Blanchard is the Meyer Struckmann Professor of Jewish Law at Humboldt University Faculty of Law in Berlin as well as scholar-in-residence at the Institute for Law, Religion and Lawyer’s Work at Fordham Law School. In addition to being an ordained Orthodox rabbi, he holds PhDs in Philosophy and Clinical Psychology. He has taught philosophy and Jewish studies at Washington, Northwestern and Loyola Universities as well as at Drisha Institute and has had a private practice in psychotherapy. In addition to his articles on Jewish law, his publications include the 2002 Riesman award winning “How to Think About Being Jewish in the Twenty-First Century: a New Model of Jewish Identity Construction,” a book that he co-authored, entitled Embracing Life, Facing Death: a Jewish Guide to Palliative Care, and non-academic writings on a variety of Jewish topics.


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