"Israel, return to God, your God, for you have stumbled on account of your sins. You do not need to take sacrifices. Just take words of confession with you and return to God" Hosea 14:2-3


When it is not combined with Parashat Nitzavim, Parashat Vayelech is read on Shabbat Shuvah just before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is fitting as the parashah and the special haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah quoted above, share the familiar yet complex leitmotif of the Jewish people's repeated sinning, God's divine punishment and the redemptive hope, both divine and human, of teshuvah, repentance and return.

On Yom Kippur when Jews engage in deeply reflective prayers of confession and forgiveness, the concept of teshuvah is impoverished if understood solely in terms of God's strict rejection of a person who has sinned.

An adequate notion of teshuvah must include the broader aspects of the individual's return and God's acceptance.

This creates a dynamic process which, through profound often painful regret and prayer, helps the person to acknowledge their wrongdoing, and to strengthen their resolve to act differently in the future, especially when they find themselves in exactly the same situation.

Within the individual, teshuvah is intended to foster a courageous and deep moral shift in mind, heart and deed. Between human beings and God, it involves the drawing close of each covenantal partner to the other, enabling acceptance, return, re-entry, or indeed new entry into the relationship.

We cannot fail to be moved by the deep compassion of God's words despite His prescient knowledge that Israel would repeatedly stumble: "Be strong and courageous! For God your God is the One Who is going with you. He will not loosen his hold on you and forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive