Kenneth Cohen

Shabbat Shuva

There are two very special Shabbats in the Jewish calendar. The Shabbat before Pesach is called, “Shabbat Hagadol,” and the Shabbat before Yom Kippur is known as “Shabbat Shuva.”

The reason for the name, Shabbat Shuva, comes from the Haftarah from the Book of Hoshea. It begins with the words, שובה ישראל, that Israel should return to G-d.
It appears to be speaking of a collective, national repentance. It speaks of a time when the people will come to the realization, that they must rely only on Hashem for salvation. He is waiting for this moment when, in the words of the Prophet Yechezkel, “You will be My people, and I will be Your G-d.”

Traditionally, the public lectures given on Shabbat Hagadol and Shabbat Shuva, were great motivators. These lectures were given by the leading rabbis of the community. There was no political correctness. There was “fire and brimstone,” that shook up the people to make necessary changes.

The roles of Ezra and Nechemia, was a precedent of the potential of great leaders, to bring about collective Teshuva. These two giants were the major force in rebuilding the Second Temple.

Imagine a leader like Ezra, who gave an impassioned plea, that all Jewish men should divorce their non-Jewish wives. And the people listened, and did what Ezra said.

Nechemia was shocked to see the decline in Shabbat observance. People were working the fields on the holiest day of the week. He enacted strict laws of Muktza to get the people back on track, and it worked!

Shabbat Shuva should be the day where we wake up as a people, and return to Hashem, where we fulfill our special role in the world.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at