9/13/2018

Shabbat Vayeyleh, Shabbat Shuvah

Candles - Friday, September 14 @ 6:45pm
Havdalah - September 15 @ 15 @ 7:40pm

Yom Kipur
Fast begins Tuesday, September 18 @ 6:40pm
Kol Nidrei 6:45pm
Yom Kipur Torah reading - Wednesday @ 10:30am
Neilah 6:00pm
Fast ends 7:33pm

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur is called Shabbat Shuva. Normally translated “the Shabbat of repentance.” But in fact, it does not really mean that. Repentance is when you have done something bad which you regret. The word Shuvameans rather to return. And return means something else. You can return from somewhere without necessarily having done any act that is wrong or without having committed a sin at all.

According to most authorities, there is no explicit command in the Torah to repent. Though Ramban (Nachmanides) did, in fact, say there was. The Torah initially uses the words Shav, Tashuvsimply to mean to return to the dust or home. Later in the Book of Devarim the words are used to describe Israelites returning to God and God returning to Israel after they turned their backs on him.

We may never have been close to God. We may never have lived religious lives. We nowadays call someone who becomes religious a Baal Teshuva. This does not necessarily mean that he or she has returned to something, because they may never have had it. Rather that they have found something new.

It means raising one’s game to reach a higher, more conscious, more spiritual level. So, when the Torah talks about God returning to Israel, it is not as if God has behaved badly or was irreligious. Just that there was no relationship and now God is open to it. We have an opportunity to explore the possibility of having one or of upping our game to make it more intense and meaningful. It means in other words, to establish or enhance a relationship.


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I invite you to join me for a weekly class after services and kiddush in the shul every Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm. The current topic is Rambam (Maimonides) on Tefillah (prayer).

You are also invited to my weekly "What the Bible Says and What It Doesn't" class at the JCC on Amsterdam and West 75th St every Monday from 1:30pm - 3:00pm.


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