I find this week’s parasha, Nitzavim¸ quite comforting, which is a welcome thing, since it seems I’ve spent the entire week hearing about, or attending, funerals. Families that were scattered all over the world found a way to return home, gathering together to mourn and remember, laugh and cry. Standing together, we could turn and address God through prayer and pain. The words of Nitzavim echoed: “And you return to your God, and you and your children heed God’s command with all your heart and soul, just as I instruct you this [very] day, then God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. God will bring you together again ..”(Deut 30:2-3).
The common word in this passage, in Hebrew, is “shuv”, or return. In, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, the point is made that the shoresh (root) shuv, occurs eight times in various forms throughout this part of the text, “all of which exemplify an internal process of change and transformation: return from the bad ways, regret, leaving the evil deeds behind, changing the way of life, and finally approaching God in a close relationship.” (p. 1224)
It’s no coincidence that this part of the Torah comes just before Rosh Hashanah. We are now only a week away from the New Year, and the subsequent Days of Awe, or Days of Repentance. The theme of “teshuva” (repentance) permeates the liturgy. The beauty of the Hebrew language makes the connection for us – repentance and returning, gathering, restoring, for the root shuv is in all those words. We seek to re-calibrate the discordant patterns, and return to living in harmony with those around us, and ourselves. We “re-tune”. It’s reassuring to know that, no matter how far or how often we’ve wandered away, every time we approach God, we can be taken back in love.
I believe it’s the same for those closest to us; we seek a way to turn around and find our way back to those we love. The “instruction” (Torah) teaches us how to do that. “This instruction is not too hard for you…it is not in the heavens. No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it” (Deut. 30:11-14). Our words have the power to bring our hearts home. Our words can cause us to gather together again so that we are renewed, restored, returned. So, we spend the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur using our words to reconnect with those from whom we may have strayed. We “do” teshuva, turning and returning, so we may be taken back in love. Why not begin to return now? With whom can you reconnect? With whom will you gather together again?
May your year be sweet, your life full of goodness and joy, and may you live in harmony with the world.
Shabbat Shalom v’ Shana Tovah u’metukah