Shabbat Shuvah is so named because it falls on the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the time when we are urged to Shuvah, “return,” to our best selves. It is also the opening of the Haftarah, which is composed of excerpts of the greatest hits from Rosh HaShanah, Tashlikh, and Yom Kippur.
There is no one word we will hear more than teshuvah during this ten day period, and no concept more difficult. To return means to remember where one was, and memory is an elusive, often traumatized element of our minds. To return means to recognize that there is something of great worth that we’ve left behind somewhere, and that our going forward is actually dependent upon our going back for it – and from that perspective to re-vision our future path, and re-orient ourselves to it.
To return, according to our tradition, is to be able to imagine – and from there begin to see – that
We once knew a great unity, when we were very young.
Then, all being was one seamless, living organism.
We were more than a part of it; we were of it and it was of us.
Then we were born and everything began to fall apart:
Mothers and children, father and mothers, siblings,
lovers, families, villages, nations.
Earliest childhood is living in the unity;
adulthood is surviving the brokenness.
And what has come to be called spiritual maturity
is remembering the ancient unity
and trying to reassemble the shards.*
To do teshuvah is to walk toward wholeness in oneself and with everything else. On this Shabbat of the Days of Awe, may the path toward your wholeness, and healing, be smoother than you realized when you began to walk it.
Shabbat shalom, Shanah 5780 Tovah Tikhateymu!
*Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Five Cities of Refuge, 140