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Vayelech - Shabbat Shuva

09/10/2021 12:48:56 PM

Sep10

In honor of the special Shabbat this week:  Shabbat shuva.  Wow! ​This must be more than a coincidence!  Let me explain.

A strange phenomenon has come to my attention. A feeling of depression has overcome some senior Jewish citizens during the pandemic.

Although having lived a traditional Jewish lifestyle for the past many years, they remember the times when they were not observant of mitzvot, and they are convinced that HaShem will never forgive them: to be assigned to an eternity of damnation.

Over Rosh Hashanah, I was wondering:  what could I say to assuage such people?

And here is what happened:   Many, many years ago, I wrote an academic paper on the Pesiqta De-Rav Kahana, a collection of midrashic speeches given about 1500 years ago by the rabbis of Erets Yisrael, in the dialect of Aramaic as spoken in the Holy Land in the 5th or 6th century. These derashot were delivered by those rabbis on special Sabbaths. I purchased at the time 2 volumes of that Pesiqta', but over the past many years have rarely opened those volumes.

This year, on Rosh HaShana, I had about an hour before minha, and decided to review the speeches those rabbis gave for Shabbat Shuva. The rabbis all focused on the unique power of repentance.  They were responding to a feeling a despondence that was overcoming the inhabitants of Israel at that time. And those rabbis, trying to encourage the people, gave several examples from the Bible:

  1. God says:  "I accepted the repentance of King Ahab, so how can you think that I won't accept your repentance??! [Ahab was the most unethical king of the Northern Israelite kingdom in ancient times.)

 

  1. God says: "I accepted the repentance of the people of Anatot, so how can you think that I won't accept your repentance? [These were the friends and neighbours of the Prophet Jeremiah.   They didn't like the words of rebuke that Jeremiah had been telling them, so they plotted to kill him.]

 

  1. HaShem says:  "I accepted the repentance of the people of Ninevah, so how can you think that I won't accept your repentance?" [This of course refers to the famous story of Jonah, that we read on Yom Kippur.]

 

  1. God says:  "I accepted the repentance of Menashe, so how can you think that I won't accept your repentance?" [Menashe was the king of the Kingdom of Judah, whose wicked acts set in motion the factors leading to the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile. You can't get worse than that, but HaShem accepted his genuine words of contrition, according to the biblical book of Chjronicles.]

 

  1. The period between Rosh haShana and Yom kippur is a time to reflect   on our actions over the past year. If there were certain actions that were inappropriate, we can seek forgiveness, and pray to HaShem, and we can be confident that He will accept our prayers.

 

May we all have a sweet, healthy, and productive year.

Mon, June 27 2022 28 Sivan 5782