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 Shabbat Shuva Drasha

09/26/2020 02:44:13 PM

Sep26

Rabbi Dr. Howard Schwartz

First, I want to thank Rabbi Avi for asking that I give a drasaha on this particular Shabbat, Shabbat Shuva. Thinking historically, our Rabbis used to give only two derashot a year, on Shabbat HaGadol, just prior to Pesach, and the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur, namely Shabbat Shuva.

 

The focus on Shabbat Shuva was typically on Repentance, Prayer, and Charity. And to emphasize this issue, the Haftorah itself focuses on Repentance and Forgiveness. After all, in our prayers for this period, we say “teshuva, Tefillah, Tzedakah ma’averrin et roah hagezarah”, so this all makes sense...

 

But, in thinking about this period of time, following Elul with Rosh Hashanah, the ten days of repentance ending with Yom Kippur. Do we really need Shabbat SHUVA, as opposed to a usual type of Shabbat?

Might it be a little overkill??? But then I consider the context more deeply and come to realize; This is the very first Shabbat after the creation of the world! We, humans, were created on day six, near the end of the day ——so we just celebrated our birthday !!!

 

We were created in G-d’s image and with free will; incredible to consider. SO, perhaps this Shabbat DOES need some more thinking by all of us! In Bereishis we are told that G-d chose to create us  B’tzelem Elokim; let us make the human in our image and as our likeness. What does the Hebrew word tzelem really mean? The Ramban explains that this  human being will be subject to the same physical strengths  and limits, the same cycle of birth, development, and ultimate death, the same needs for nutrition, procreation, etc. as the other created beings in the animal world,

Commentators have suggested that These qualities could be said to be 

representing natural or bestial man.

 

BUT we will also are told that we have been created with instincts that are celestial-heavenly spiritual... Further, in thinking about that word, tzelem, and what it could mean, Rabbi Chanoch Waxman suggests that this term refers to the DIVINITY of our souls., including the capacity for rational intellect and the quality of helping shape order out of chaos.

So The fashioning by God of humans in G-d’s image means the creation of a creature with the capacities of conquering chaos, and structuring a well balanced, ordered, and good world.

 

Our charge and our responsibility is to bring to realization the potential of making a great world; wow! BUT, our creation, as we read Hebrew, parallels the creation of the world, at least to a degree;

Just as the world began in unstructured chaos, we humans are born in a parallel state, with lots of potentials, but still having been born in some degree of chaos.

 

SO, we could say that To be in Tzelem  Elokim—thus means that WE have part of the task of SELF-making; the fashioning and improving of ourselves. G-d has put some of that responsibility in OUR hands. Thus, while we are born with the complexity of having physical, “natural” drives, we also have the ability to be reflective, thoughtful, and alter our habits and behaviors.

 

If we are honest, as we should be, especially this time of the Jewish year, we have to admit that we generally have  NOT fulfilled our potential to a significant degree. No human being can be perfect; not with our having both a yetzer tov and a yetzer rah.; our physical drives and our spiritual souls; BUT we should remember that our Torah teaches that all our heroes had flaws. And so, since our role models in the Scriptures are human, not -perfect, we should recognize that it is not beyond our own possibly achieving some degree of such success.

 

Yes, as we look at ourselves over the past year, we are to admit our flaws and shortcomings and try to make up for at least some of them over this next year. We know we will fail to one degree or another; that by next year there will be other things to regret, but Have we TRIED to do better over the period of this new year?? During our introspection this time of year, we need to realize that our being alive is a gift, given by G-d, and with HIS help, our biological parents. 

And, we should ASK OF OURSELVES;

Why am I alive?

Why am I here in THIS location?

Fundamentally, who am I?

Whom do I WANT to be?

Who was I meant to be?

What am I to be about? (Both as an individual and then on a community basis.)

 

We should stop thinking that we are entitled; that every good thing SHOULD come to us; WE SHOULD recognize our individual uniqueness, and be thankful for the life we have. but also, we should wonder: What am I needed for, what can I individually contribute to our world? Our lives are a gift, given us to not be wasted but to be put to as good use as possible.

 

Rambam tells us that we need to find in ourselves the G-d given strength to push ourselves toward the better in both our individual lives and also in our community and our world. Yeshayahu Lebowitz tells us that faith in G-d does not come from anywhere but inside ourselves; we have the decision to make; to have faith, and then the decision to take on the responsibilities of being a Jew part of ourselves. We can hope and pray that, at the least, we will be given the ability to try, even as we ourselves age and perhaps grow infirm. Never the less, we need to try to at least do as well, if not better, during this new year. 

 

In the end, all the foregoing is is what I think makes Shabbat Shuva quite special; we are on the threshold of a new year, a year in which we can get closer to fulfilling our own and our people’s destinies.

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova u'Mevorach


 

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Rambam tells us that we need to find in ourselves the G-d given strength to push ourselves toward the better in both our individual lives and also in our community and our world.

Yeshayahu Lebowitz tells us that faith in G-d does not come from anywhere but inside ourselves; we have the decision to make; to have faith, and then the decision to take on the responsibilities of being a Jew part of ourselves. We can hope and pray that, at the least, we will be given the ability to try, even as we ourselves age and perhaps grow infirm. Never the less, we need to try to at least do as well, if not better, during this new year. 

In the end, all the foregoing is is what I think makes Shabbat Shuva quite special; we are on the threshold of a new year, a year in which we can get closer to fulfilling our own and our people’s destinies.

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova u'Mevorach

 

  Gmar Chatima Tovah

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782