"Bring us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us near our King, to Your service, and influence us to return in perfect repentance before You. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who desires repentance."
From the Shemoneh Esrie The purpose of the 10 days from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur is repentance, tshuvah. Engaging oneself in repentance requires introspection as we look into our actions and we have regret for our transgressions. At the sound of the first shofar blast, teru'ah it cries out to each of us for "self-examination", to reconcile our differences with each other, and to make amends and repent. The use of the emotion of guilt can act as a positive motivator; facing shame and regret pushes a person towards tshuvah.
How many of us are aware of the profound need for and the importance of the 7 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, especially designated for repentance? Once again, God is giving us another gift of love. Love for His created beings through repentance, and the opportunity to relate to Him, when He is closer to us. During these 10 days God is more accessible to us individually and according to the Rambam when we call Him our call is answered immediately. The Rambam also says: "For in every situation a person has the choice of changing from good to bad and from bad to good. The choice is in one's hands." The choice is yours, it is up to you, and it is for your own benefit. Even on one's deathbed, even an evil person can repent, and God hears that person's tshuvah. "Seek God when He is to be found." from Isaiah 55:6, which refers specifically to these 10 days. The Rambam states further that: "Calling out to God is desirable at all times, whether s person's judgment is sealed or not." God gives us the 10 days from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur to pour out our heart, to draw closer to Him through our tshuvah. We are reminded of this idea every single day, when in our tefila we ask God to: Bring us back, bring us near, and influence us to return This is all daily preparation for repentance, and as the Rambam says: "we should be constantly calling out to God." The question is: do we take it seriously, as an obligation that does have beneficial results, or do we just mutter the words?
The Meiri (Rosh Hashana 16b) stresses the importance of using the unique nature of these 10 days and uses harsh language to describe those who fail to use this time and opportunity to repent. This is a time of keen awareness, for us to be more cognizant of our actions and behavior. With more awareness of the Creator during this time, and of God hearing our plea through our tshuvah. During these 7 intermittent days when we are eager to be closer to God, He gives us additional time when we are feeling positive about the Yom Tov but at the same time, we now draw closer to Him and return to Him. Chazal say that tshuvah performed during this week is on a higher level than the significant tshuvah we perform throughout the entire year. On Yom Kippur we culminate our tshuvah the entire day in fasting and repentance.
The 10 days of repentance is an amazing process to partake of because it is a qualitatively unique period of time for all Jews. A time when only Jews can come closer to God and God makes it possible for us to do so. Let these 10 days of repentance and devotion act as leverage for you personally and use it with hope and optimism to transform yourself, like "perfect repentance" before God. It is too awesome a time to ignore. These 10 days give us more awareness of a "truer reality" as Jews. And it is given to us as a valuable and precious gift, an investment we each can make in our soul. How could a person pass this up? We usually think of tshuvah as repentance from our sins, but tshuvah also means to return, to return to God. This is the relationship we have with God, as His created beings and He set it up for us this way. There is a relationship to God and this relationship allows us to return to Him, "Who desires repentance."
It is up to each of us to take this seriously, since this is the most important relationship we have. And at the same time we realize how far away from God we really are. We have the heavy, burdened status of gulus, Klal Yisroel is disbursed mostly outside the land of Israel without the Temple. We must be more aware of the necessity of regaining our status as "the light" unto the nations and as one nation chosen to be God's "holy nation." In calling out to God we feel the pain knowing our distance from Him, and this is what awakens our heart. This is what should make us literally cry out to God, this is teru'ah, the cry of the first shofar blast.