Shabbat Shuvah - The Shabbat of Return
September 14, 2018
This Shabbat, the Shabbat that is between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a special Shabbat: Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Return. The name is taken from the first line of the Haftarah (the reading from The Prophets) on this Shabbat – A reading from the book of Hosea: “Return O Israel to the Lord, your God.” It is a reading totally in keeping with the themes of the High Holidays. The very word “Shuvah,” RETURN! Is the same root of the word for repentance, “Teshuvah.” People who have left Judaism and have returned are called “Ba’alei Teshuvah,” – Masters of return/repentance. Repentance is in fact a kind of return; a return to a value driven life, atonement for mistakes, or even remorse for evil action. Since part of the theme is self-evaluation and introspection, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah is perfectly placed.
Although sermons on the Sabbath are commonplace in Western Europe and in America, the very idea is a fairly new-fangled one. In Eastern Europe, the rabbi rarely gave a Shabbat Sermon. Perhaps a Vort (inspirational word) or a drashah (a commentary on the Torah) was given at meals – not in synagogue! The only exception was on the Sabbath just before Passover, and . . . you guessed it . . . on Shabbat Shuvah! The tradition was not only to give a sermon about repentance, but a lengthy one at that.
What associations do you have with the word, “Return?” To what would you like to return? When have you returned to things? Old Friends? Old homes or cities? Former hobbies or passions? What would you like to return to this year, the Jewish year 5779.
May you all be inscribed for Good in the Book of Life. Chatimah Tovah.