This Is How You Remind Me of What I Really Am, part II.
The first time I came to shul in Oregon - I was about eight years old - a large sign on the foyer wall read,
In the place where the true penitent stands, even the most righteous cannot stand,
which is a quotation from the Talmud.
Admitting to myself that I was neither a true penitent nor most righteous, I looked at the many seats available in shul and wondered anxiously which were for the true penitents and which for the most righteous, and whether I would get into trouble if I stood in the wrong place.
Which is not what the sign meant.
Let's drop the word penitence right here. It makes me itch -- I must be associating it with hairshirts and other peculiarities of the Christian Middle Ages. No.
The Hebrew concept that that sign extolled is teshuva, "return".
To 'do teshuva' is to return from what I'm doing that I would rather not do, to the person I would rather be. We say every morning that "the soul You have placed in me is pure" -- no matter what I have obscured it with.
Teshuva is the first thing I thought of when I read this:
Adopted Minnesota Man Learns He Is a Prince
You think you are an ordinary human being... and then something reminds you, or you make an effort to remember, that you are nobility.
And strive to live up to it.