Parashat Vayelech – Shabbat Shuvah 5779
“Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of returning to our soul”
This coming Shabbat, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is called Shabbat Shuvah, which means Shabbat of return. This Shabbat is part of the Yamim Noraim, High Holy Days, and Aseret Yemei Teshuva, ten days of repentance.
The name ‘Shuvah’ is a reference to the opening words of this week’s Haftarah, “Shuva Israel — Return Oh Israel to the Lord your God“. This haftorah is always read during the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Ashkenazi Jews read Hosea 14:2-10 and Joel 2:15-27, while Sephardic Jews read Hosea 14:2-10 and Micah 7:18-20. The selection from Hosea focuses on a universal call for repentance and an assurance that those who return to God will benefit from divine healing and restoration. The selection from Joel describes how a blow of the shofar will unite the people in fasting and supplication. Hosea focuses on divine forgiveness and how great it is in comparison to the forgiveness of man.
In this week’s parasha, parashat Vayelech, the people are getting ready to cross over to the land of Canaan, an epic journey. For them Canaan is the future, the Promised Land, but it is also their past, the home of our matriarchs and patriarchs.
For the Hebrew tribes, going forward is a return to their true home. And on Shabbat Shuvah, we do the same. We look back on our year, so we can have a better future, a future that is about returning to our true selves. This too is an epic journey. This is after all, Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of returning.
This Shabbat urges us to return. To return where?
To return to ourselves, to our family and friends, to our values, to God, to our roots, to our emotions, to our dreams, to our pleasures, to our hobbies, etc.
During the year we tend to be very busy, worried, and stressed, and we forget the important treasures we have in our lives. We look for successes, awards, promotions, etc. and we estrange ourselves from many important things. This Shabbat invites us to return to all the things we usually don’t appreciate during the year.
As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach says in his song “Return again”, Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of returning, encourages us to:
“Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul
Return to what you are, return to who you are, return to where you are
Born and reborn again…
Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul…”
(Below you can find two links with this song, one sung by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z’L and the other, by Neshamha Carlebach, Rabbi Carlebach’s daughter. I invite you to sing it, to learn this song if you don’t know it, while you reflect upon this Shabbat Shuvah, Shabbat of returning. We will sing it at the Temple during Kabbalat Shabbat and Shacharit L’shabbat services).
May God help us to look back on our year, so we can have a better future, a future that is about returning to ourselves, “to the land of our soul, to what we are, to who we are, to where we are
born and reborn again”. A future in which we are able to return and appreciate the treasures we have in our lives.
Enjoy the song!
Shabbat Shalom! G’mar Chatimah Tova!