“Tet, Aleph, Aleph” he says immediately upon answering my call. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me,” I reply somewhat sheepishly. “We need to talk.”
“So nu… talk already!”
“Uh,” I pause - caught off guard by his usual bluntness - “Listen Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion, what does it mean ‘to become a Ba’al Shem you must first become a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh’?”
“It always amazes me,” the Rabbi sighs “how small the steps are that you are taking…”
I cut him off before he goes into another rant about how slow I am to learn, or complaining about my irregular meditation practice, or even worse my lack of spiritual diary.
“Sorry Rabbi, I just want a quick answer.”
There is silence on the other end of the line. The silence drags on and for a moment I have visions of great Old Ones waiting patiently for the last few suns in the Universe to burn out and die. Finally I crack and the words spill out so fast that I have trouble keeping up with my own stream of consciousness.
“OK, so a I understand that a Ba’al Shem refers to a Master of Name. In other words someone who is able to use Divine names to alter the natural flow of things in this world. And that a Ba’al Teshuvah refers to a person who has returned to a life of religious observance having come from a lifestyle of little to no observance through ignorance or choice. However I have trouble with the term Ba’al as it implies mastery and who can master repentance completely?”
I pause for a deep breath. There is no sign that the Rabbi wants to jump for which I am both grateful and rather concerned about what he has prepared.
“But what does Teshuv-Heh mean? I understand that the word teshuvah is the same as teshuv with the letter Heh pronounced separately at the end. But there is no such word as Teshuv-Heh, it’s meaningless. It literally means to return the Heh and the point of the word teshuva is that means to return to the Divine source by means of religious observance. So what is the significance of returning the letter Heh in the general context of trying to turn one’s life around and return to a path that is striving to connect with the Divine?”
I gulp some more air, and hear the Rabbi clear his throat.
“Perhaps the Heh belongs to another word,” he says slowly and quietly. “A name.”
It takes awhile for the penny to drop.
“You mean the four letter name of G-d, right? Yud, Heh, Vav, and Heh.”
“OK. I understand that being a Ba’al Teshuvah, or as you call it a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh is about rectification of a Divine name…. and in order to become a Ba’al Shem… I need to be able to rectify the name. This is beginning to make sense as to why chapter one of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) refers to the letters Yud, Heh, and Vav but not an additional Heh. Creation as described in the first chapter is incomplete.”
“You are getting there,” he says sounding bemused. “Slowly.”
“Thank you, I think that I am beginning to understand.”
“No you don’t,” he states firmly. “But you may understand it soon enough. And in case you’re wondering why the tune ‘He’s a bit of a fixer upper’ has been in your head this past week - it’s because the tune is referring to rectification of self in order to be of service. Get it? Teshuvah. Return to the Source.”
He hangs up. As usual I am left with more questions than answers, the main one being how comes he knows what songs have been in my head. Followed by, how do I get this tune out of my head...