The Maggid of Mezritch was expounding on the Torah verse “You shall make teshuvah ad Adonai Elohecha, You shall repent until the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 4:30)
“What is the meaning of this strange phrasing?” the Maggid asked. “Should Torah not say ‘You shall repent unto Adonai Elohecha, the Lord your God’ rather than until? (Note: In this context, the Hebrew word ad means either “unto” or “until”) And why say both Adonai and Elohecha when either one would suffice?”
Answering his own question, the Maggid said, “To understand the first, you must understand the second. What is the meaning of Adonai?”
A Hasid replied: “Adonai is the four-letter Name of God that signifies the absolute transcendence of the Divine.”
“And what is the meaning of Elohecha?”
This refers to Elohim, the Name of God that signifies the absolute immanence of God.”
“And what is the meaning of teshuvah?”
“Teshuvah is the process of returning to God by admitting our mistakes and making amends.”
“So,” the Maggid said, “We are to continue the process of teshuvah until we can see Adonai manifest as Elohim, until we see the one and the many as different aspects of the One and Only.”
Adonai Elohecha: A common phrase in the Hebrew Bible, thought to unite what was once two different ideas of God: Adonai, the euphemism for the unpronounceable YHVH referring to the unknowable and transcendent God, and Elohim, the immanent God present to us in and through nature.
Elohim (plural Hebrew noun used for singular God): The Jewish mystical understanding of why Elohim is a plural noun linked with singular verbs is that the Torah is trying to teach us that the One God is manifest in, and is the plurality of, creation.
Teshuvah is a process of stripping away selfishness by recognizing and repenting the mistakes the self makes.
Think of your soul as a clear pane of glass transparent to the Light of God. The glass itself is pure, hence the daily Jewish affirmation: Elohai nishamah sheh natata-be t’horah he, “My God, the soul You breathe into me is pure.” Yet, the ego often smears the glass with selfish acts that distort or block out the Light. These acts of selfishness must be cleansed so that the glass can do what it is created to do: allow the Light to pass through it. Teshuvah is the act of cleansing the glass.
How long do you need to do this? Forever. Even when the transcendent and immanent are one and the same to you, even when you realize that both self and selfishness are part of God, you must still cleanse the glass. At this point, your cleansing is filled with compassion for the self, and you clean without self-condemnation. But you still clean.