If I Could Turn Back Time: Teshuvah – the Only Way to Turn Back Time

If you watched the VMAs or saw headlines from it like I did, you might have noticed that Cher (singer, actress, and erstwhile infomercial star) was dressed in a black unitard made of nothing but nylons. OK, there was some strategically-placed glitter on the outfit as well, but as over-the-top as Cher looked wearing this getup 30 years ago is nothing compared to how she looked squeezing into it again at the age of 64.

This pantyhosed-ensemble made its debut in the sexagenarian’s (pun very much intended) hit video “If I Could Turn Back Time,” which is evidently what this star wants to do when it comes to her looks. But should holding on to youth and beauty be such a central goal in life?

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon wisely notes that “grace is deceptive and beauty is emptiness, it is a woman who reveres God that should be praised.”

That’s because despite what Cher’s plastic surgeon and personal trainer may be telling her, the world was set up so that people physically deteriorate as they get older. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to look and feel our best as we age, but while our physicality is meant to decline over time, our spirituality, if we work on it, has the ability to get stronger and more developed with each passing day.

Though time can’t be turned back when it comes to one’s body, there actually is a formula to turning back time for one’s soul. It’s called teshuva which is often translated as “repentance” but literally means “returning.”

Doing teshuva, which includes feeling remorse for a mistake, apologizing to the person wronged (if the mistake affected another person), committing to changing one’s behavior, and then sticking to the plan – actually resets  one’s spiritual clock. It’s not that the mistake is simply forgiven and pushed under the rug – it’s as if it never happened in the first place (in God’s eyes).

Working to look and feel one’s best is a worthwhile endeavor, but only in moderation. For as we are reminded during these Days of Awe – we have neither the knowledge nor the control of “who will live and who will die.” And so it behooves each and everyone of us to focus as much time and effort as we can towards strengthening the side of ourselves that is everlasting and transcends this fleeting world of glitter, unitards, and Video Music Awards.

May you and yours be sealed in the Book of Life.

The Kiddush Cup is Always Half Full: Why Judaism is Eternally Optimistic
An "A" for Effort on Rosh Hashanah (Why Results Aren't All That Matter When it Comes to Teshuva)

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Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

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  1. Hello,

    this is my first time writing to you, I am a bit nervous. I truly enjoy reading your stories, watching your videos, thank you, it gives me a different perspective on life.

    I truly agree with you and I also think that it is very normal to want to stay young looking, or younger looking.
    I believe that I am very happy with myself and the way I look, I would never want to go back in time but yet I am only 36 years old. I know a lot more than I did in my twenties, I’m much more confident in myself too. I only wonder if this feeling will stay with me when I am eighty years old? I guess there is no way of knowing at this moment, only time will tell. I do agree with you that wisdom is such a beautiful thing, sometimes I wonder how much more I will know when I am 45, may be we all want to be more knowledgeable and have younger look.
    I was just wondering if look had to do with vanity as well; by getting older we think that we may become less attractive to our spouse? or others?

  2. Hi Sophie. No need to be nervous – I put on my wigs just like everyone else does!

    We obviously live in a very youth and looks obsessed society. There’s nothing wrong with trying to look good – especially for one’s spouse. Even the Torah mentions several of our forebearers who were blessed with physical beauty.

    The issue that I was raising is when perfecting physicality becomes *the* goal in life and trumps other far more important goals.

    In terms of trying to look good being a sign of “vanity,” I know vanity is considered one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity, but I don’t think we talk about it in the same way in Judaism. We have something called “guy-va” which means “being egotistical” and we’re supposed to get rid of any feelings like that, but I don’t think we’re supposed to shun wanting to look good. I just think we need to do it in moderation.

    One final thing in terms of remaining attractive to our spouses – while Judaism believes in modesty for women, it also believes in modesty for men in the sense that they should be “guarding their eyes” from other women’s bodies. So while we can try our best to look our best for our husbands, if they work on keeping their eyes from wandering to other women’s bodies, it helps take the competition away (and what wife wouldn’t like that?!)

  3. Never expected to read about Cher in an article on teshuva LOL!
    Haqving good looks is great, but the energy of good health is even more important.(At least that’s how I see it, from here in my late fifties…)
    But there are those things that I ask my teens to do for me because I just can’t “do it all” anymore. It is humbling…..

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