This Sabbath is known as Shabbat Shuva, the “Sabbath of Repentance” which falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But the Hebrew word Shuva literally means something more basic than repentance. It means “return.” The return to our more authentic selves. The return to the values and ideals, the hopes and the dreams that we once cherished and that may have been compromised along the path of life.
As we read in the Torah this week, Moses appeals to the people “to remember the days of old.” To remember what had happened during the past 40 years, because only by remembering would they be able to really understand the present. Moses says to the people: “understand the years of each generation.”
Yes, Yom Kippur is very much about remembering. It’s about remembering when we were younger and when we believed that we really could have just about anything that we wanted from life, if only we were willing to work hard enough for it, and if only we wouldn’t give up on ourselves and our dreams.
In one of his works, the great Rabbi Abraham Heschel says that “the gravest sin for a Jew is to forget, or not to know, what he represents.”
And Elie Wiesel says something similar: “I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.”
Before entering the Promised Land Moses appealed to the people “remember the past.” Find inspiration from those who were dear to you and to whom you were dear. Find inspiration and strength in the old hopes and visions that can yet lead you to blessing and fulfillment.
As we anticipate Yom Kippur, may we find it within ourselves to remember and renew the values and ideals for which we stand as Jews. And may we remember the hopes that once filled our hearts, and realize that we still have the power within us to cause many of those hopes to be realized.
For all of us, may this be a year of health, love and fulfillment.
Rabbi David Greenberg