Shabbat Shuvah is the Shabbat of hope. Falling between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this special Shabbat is named after the opening verse of the haftarah from Hosea.
There is a certain frailty in being human, each of us miss the mark even as we try live up to God’s expectations of us. During the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, we beat our breasts, we ask for forgiveness and we recall how we have failed with our loved ones, friends, neighbours and co-workers. We know that we have come up short.
Throughout the Yamim Noraim we seek a transformation from who we were to the person we strive to become. Our lives may be littered with mistakes but during this time of introspection, we recognise our shortcomings and we work to move ahead.
Like a dance in which we move three steps forward and one step back, our transformation can be incremental. We know that repentance is sincere and complete by the trust people grant us as we ask for their forgiveness.
A congregant once told me that in his opinion Judaism is a religion of deep disappointment because one can never fulfil all of the mitzvot. Depending on your perspective, the knowledge that we fail can be either defeating or enabling. In the daily shacharit service, we affirm God’s goodness who “renews the work of creation”. As God recreates the world, we also recreate ourselves; our fate is not sealed for good, we are always capable of overturning the past.
The essence of this season is the fifth verse of the haftarah: “Generously will I take them back in love; For My anger has turned away from them.” Mercifully, God issues an invitation to each of us to return.