Saturday, September 26, 2020
Eighth Day of Tishrei 5781
Today is Shabbat, the most holy day in Jewish tradition. It is our day of rest and our day of joyfully feeling God’s presence all around us.
This particular Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Its name comes from the Haftarah portion we read today. In that reading, the prophet Hosea says, “Return [Shuva], O Israel, to Adonai your God, for you have fallen because of your sin.” In response, God says, “I will heal their affliction. Generously will I take them back in love, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:2,5).
This is the essential teaching of t’shuvah and of Yom Kippur. The Jewish idea of repentance is not, as many people suppose, to feel guilty about our misdeeds. God does not want us to feel guilty. Rather, God wants us to feel forgiven. In order to get there, though, we need to recognize what we have done, raise ourselves up, return to the right path, and accept healing love. It is not an easy thing to do. It is not supposed to be. But it is a process that is meant to make us feel good about ourselves.
Compare this to how a loving parent treats a child who has misbehaved. Parents help their children to recognize what they have done wrong, to apologize, and to learn to do better in the future. Ideally, parents do this out of love for their children, not out of anger or vindictiveness. They do it because they know that their children’s future happiness can only be improved by learning to behave well, to do what is right, and to become self-knowing and self-regulating. That is also what God wants for us. It is what t’shuvah is all about.
Practice for this day:
Knowing and feeling God’s love for us is a central idea of Judaism. The blessing we recite at every service right before the Shema states that God loves us with a great and eternal love. Feeling and accepting God’s love is difficult for many people.
As we prepare for Yom Kippur, it is a good time to open yourself to feeling God’s love. Take some time to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and allow yourself to feel God’s love shining on you like sunshine on your face on a summer day. Breathe in and breathe out, feeling God’s love with each breath.
How does it feel? Where in your body do you feel it? Write down your thoughts and feelings.