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Turn, return and renew on Shabbat Shuvah

09/13/2018 09:13:35 AM


Renee Brant

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, Shabbat of Return, because its special haftorah begins with the words “Shuvah Yisrael”: "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, For you have fallen because of your sin.” (Hosea 14:2).
This Shabbat is also referred to as Shabbat Teshuvah because it always falls during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Teshuvah is usually translated as repentance or turning. Chet, the most common Hebrew word for sin, translates as “missing the mark.” When we sin, we miss the mark of our good intentions and become disconnected from God. The High Holy Days offer us the wonderful opportunity to take account of where we are, realign ourselves and practice teshuvah to reconnect and turn back to God and return to our best self, to our soul.
The parsha for this Shabbat is Vayelech. On the last day of Moses’ life, God tells him that he will not be able to enter the Promised Land and must train Joshua to lead the people. In his writings on Shabbat Shuvah, the S'fat Emet, a 19th-20th century Polish Hasidic Rabbi, refers to those who truly seek forgiveness as “m'chadshim,” literally "renewers" or "re-creators." By defining teshuvah as a process of renewing oneself, the path toward God becomes a path of tikkun — of taking ourselves apart and putting ourselves back together to be different than before. Our parsha presents Moses as an example of one who remakes himself even in his last days, when his old self might have been disappointed and angry. Instead, through teshuvah, the renewed Moses is open, accepting and remains connected to God and community.
Renee Brant is a Temple member.

Thu, August 22 2019 21 Av 5779