Shul Teshuva

The Sefaria Project’s translation of the Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuva – Chapter 3 – Halacha 1 says:

Each and every person has merits and sins. A person whose merits are greater than their sins is righteous; and a person whose sins are greater than their merits is wicked; half and half, in-between. And the same is true of a country, if the merits of all its citizens are greater than their sins, that nation is righteous, and if their sins are greater than their merits they are wicked; and also for the whole world.

We see that a person, a country, and the world all have a three-books status (righteous, wicked, in-between). I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that a Shul also has a three-books status. Let’s assume for the sake of this post that most Shuls are in-betweeners. What should Shuls do to merit a better judgment?

For individuals, the primary path at this time of the year is Teshuva, with its regret, resolve and confession components. In the case of collectives like countries and Shuls it’s not exactly clear how collective Teshuva is achieved, but as Rosh Hoshana approaches we can at least individually resolve to make our Shuls better places. Here are three ideas to marinate as we approach the Day of Judgment.

1. Do kindness.
Shuls afford tremendous opportunities for Chesed. You might not be playing a large Tzedekah role, or cooking meals for a family, but most of us can go to that Shalom Zachar. Or attend the Bris Ceremony. Or pay that Shivah visit. We can commit to stifling the thoughts of, “I’m not so close to them” or “I don’t have time for that”, which prevent us from doing these mitzvos.

2. Let it go.
In Shul life people will let us down. Whether it’s a lack of support, a careless comment or a more grievous offense. And we’ll sometimes be hurt, angered or embarrassed. Those are normal reactions. What we can perhaps control is how fast we let it go. We can commit to working on the trait of being easier to appease.

3. Appreciate the good.
Taking things for granted is a common problem, especially when it comes to utilities like the electricity, plumbing and minyan services. Davening is expected to run smoothly and when it doesn’t, we want answers, explanations and rectifications. If we take a deeper look and see the financial, organizational and operational support behind the davening, the greater appreciation achieved will decrease negativity, and increase our happiness.

At this time of year in which Hashem is closest to us, it might make sense to put some Shul Teshuva on our to-do list.