Deuteronomy 29:9 to 30:20
For the people who have turned away from God, Torah provides the process of Teshuvah – return to God – The process can apply to both the nation of Israel and the individual Jew.
This week’s portion is always read the week before Rosh Hashanah. It features an extensive listing of curses and blessings that will befall a community based on how they act toward God and God’s commandments. If we follow the commandments, blessings will result…. If we go astray and worship other gods and disobey the commandments, curses will result.
The curses get as transgression advances. However, the Eternal tells Moses that when the people are driven from the land because of their evil ways, God is always ready to take them back. In this week’s text Moses tells the Israelites that they will always have the ability to “return” to God. If they take God in their hearts and souls, the Eternal will take them back and then the people will follow the laws and commandments again…. This is the same as expressed in the concept of rehabilitation. The errors that were made are acknowledged and efforts are made to make sure that they are not repeated.
This text tells us how the nation of Israel can seek teshuvah … a return to God. The coming High Holiday period gives individuals like us the opportunity to seek teshuvah with both God and individuals.
In a recent article in Aish.com Rabbi Paul Kipnes (Congregation or Ami, Calabasasi, CA.) suggests a four step process by which a person can achieve Teshuvah (return).
1. Count the blessings of the past year. By creating an inventory of our blessings we see that many of our blessings are made possible through a combination of our efforts, God-given factors, and the efforts of many other unrecognized individuals. Our successes and failures are due, not only to our efforts, but those of other people.
2. Examine the events of the past year and look for instances where actions did not meet the standards you have set for yourself. As I have written in the past, as Reform Jews, we have the responsibility of studying the law. Then, choose to follow those mitzvot which help us express our faith. During the High Holiday season, we measure how close we have come to meeting the goals we set for ourselves.
3. Then, we can make efforts to correct errors where we have not followed the law… “the mark that we missed.” First, one must recognize the errors that were made in our relations with the Eternal… realizing in our “heart and soul” that errors were made…. And, in cases where other people were involved, make efforts to create peace with the individuals that were affected by our wrongful actions.
4. The last step is Teshuvah … return to the right path. Along with these actions of forgiveness, efforts should be made to ensure that past errors are not repeated. Like the Israelites, the individual returns to God and then follows those laws that are seen as correct.
As we enter the High Holiday season, I want to wish your families L’shana Tova… A happy – healthy new year.