The amazing Parasha that we read every year before Rosh Hashana is also called “Parshat HaT’shuva” – the “Chapter of Return.”
It is filled with prophetic statements about our physical return to Israel, and our spiritual return to God, ourselves and our People, processes that are playing themselves out each day, before our eyes.
“And you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice … Even if your dispersed are at the ends of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there …and bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed (Devarim 30)
Rashi comments remarkably here that this ingathering will be so great and difficult, “as if God himself will take out each person in His hands from his place.”
Rabbi Nachman of Breslav describes this personal journey of “t’shuva” as “returning something to the place that it was taken from.” ( Likutei Moharan, 35) T’shuva means to return to our original, authentic selves, to engage in what is authentically ours, not someone else’s.
I am constantly reminded of the saying of Rav Yisrael Salanter – while most of us are concerned with our own physical comforts and the souls of others, we should be focused on our own souls and the physical welfare of others.
I can only compare myself to what I still can be. To understand in which situations I lose my voice, my confidence, my authenticity, my sensitivity. To acknowledge what have I not yet done or learned, that will strengthen my soul connection to myself, God and other people. To know when I miss the “ikar” (important stuff) and get caught up with the less significant “tafel“.
This past week, thousands of Israelis gathered in front of Soroka Hospital in Beersheva for Slichot every night, and to pray for wounded soldier Barel Shmueli. It wasn’t just the amount of people, someone said, but the outpouring of emotion, how everyone openly cried there.
Barel ben Nitza died last night, and I cried too, remembering that I forgot most days to add him to my tefillot.
All Israel shares a common soul. And I believe that underlying the brokenness and frustration in Israeli society and among the Jewish People today, is a profound, human desire to reconnect.
This is the cry of the Shofar.
Only the unique, powerful gift of T’shuva can return us to ourselves, help fix what’s broken, and God-willing, reconnect us all in the coming New Year.
Shabbat Shalom and L’Shana Tova U’Metuka!