This Shabbat is a time of endings and new beginnings: It is the last Shabbat of 5776, Jessica’s Bat Mitzvah, and the Torah cycle is nearly finished. We are bidding farewell to the past, and moving forward into something new. Like the ancient Israelites we are poised to enter what is metaphorically a new land: our new buildings and a brand new year. Have you ever thought what an appropriate season this is to begin a new year? Spring is a time for looking both forwards and backwards. As we see nature awaking, and seeing the new flowers blossoming, and the sun shining brighter and lighter than before, we prepare for the next season as well. And so it is with our lives. In the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we seek to rid ourselves of the habits, the thoughts, the actions that blemish our lives, and enter new paths, leading us to become better people.
And how can we bring more light and colour into the new year? One way is through our teshuvah. Teshuvah is far more than repentance. “It is,” argues Adin Steinsaltz, “a spiritual awakening to the possibilities within us. It is not just remorse, but a profound change of one’s life, a break, a reformation. We alone of all creatures have this power to turn, to recreate ourselves anew.Teshuvah at its heart is a creative process. It is not a turning back, but rather a turning forward, a turning to a new creation. Our teshuvah allows us to turn to who we have always possibly been and indeed are meant to be, but have not yet become. We turn to the growth and possibility that is inside us, but which has lain dormant. Like the sculptor who creates a work of art from what appears to be a block of stone, we create the person we truly are but which we may have kept locked inside us, not knowing how to release it or perhaps even afraid to do so.”
This process is not always easy. We might face both an intellectual and an emotional block to our teshuvah, yet, teshuvah, though sometimes painful can also be joyous. As we create our true selves, we truly become partners with God in the process of creation. We all stand here in the doorway of a brand new year. What will we do? We have the opportunity and the potential to create both ourselves and the world anew—today, tomorrow and in this new year.
Chayim joins me in wishing you and your families a blessed New Year filled with love, peace, joy, health, prosperity and Yiddishkeit
כְּתִיבָה וַחֲתִימָה טוֹבָה May you be inscribed and sealed for a good new year
Rabbi Adrian M Schell