The Multifaceted Return


Shabbat Shuva isthe Shabbat of return. On Shabbat Shuva we focus on both the personal and collective processes of returning to God.

In Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 30:2) we read about the personal spiritual return to God: "And you shall return (vishavta ad) towards God and you shall obey His voice according to all that I have commanded you on this day, you and your children with all of your heart and with all of your soul."

In the next few psukim, the reward is described. The physical return of the Jewish people to God will ultimately lead to their return to the land of Israel: "And then God will turn (vishav) your captivity and have compassion upon you and will return (vishav) and gather you from the nations amongst whom God has scattered you.and God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it and He will do good for you.if you listen to the voice of God, to keep the mitzvoth in the Torah and if you turn (tashuv el) unto God with all of your heart and with all of your soul."

Nechama Leibowitz brings the view of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael (before the State of Israel was established) in his Orot HaTeshuva, Lights of Repentence. Rav Kook emphasizes the role of Teshuva in the gradual onward progress of the Jewish people to the threshold of the Messianic age, to spiritual and national independence in the Land of Israel.

According to Rav Kook, "When people sincerely desire to do Teshuva, come back to God, they are held back by numerous hindrances.these hindrances constitute a very serious barrier.Nevertheless, since the desire to repent is so strong, such first glimmerings of Teshuva must be accepted as purifying and refining.This is true for the individual as well as for the public. The glimmerings of Teshuva do exist in Israel. The arousing of the will of the nation as a whole to return to its homeland, to its own essence, spirit and personality contains something of the genuine light of repentance."

Rav Kook's view is that Teshuva may start out as an inner striving but ultimately it can lead to bringing healing and redemption to the world.

As we continue to focus on our own personal Teshuva, let's not forget the importance of working towards the goal of communal Teshuva, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Although Rav Kook only saw the beginnings of the Jewish people's return to the Land of Israel, the first flowerings of our redemption, we see how prophetic his words were.

If we can make the first step in both our personal and communal Teshuva processes, then God will carry us along.