#BlogElul 29 – Return


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#BlogElul

Here it is. It’s Erev Rosh HaShana. The last #BlogElul post of the season.

I am both relieved and sad to have made it this far. I’m very proud that I did not miss a single day (although some were close!). But I am sad to bring this series to a close – it forced me to think about various themes and find words to express them, sometimes silly, sometimes not. For this I am very grateful to Rabbi Sommers.

The theme of this last #BlogElul post is Return. It’s the literal English translation of the word “Teshuvah”, often rendered as Repentence, but really, Return is a better way of putting it. The goal is not so much to feel bad about what we did (although that is the first step in the journey), but to return to our true selves, the ones we were meant to be.

It reminds me very much of the concept of Restorative Justice, the idea that the purpose of justice is not to punish the offender (which will not do the victim any good beyond a fleeting satisfaction, and may turn the offender into a permanent blight), but to repair the relationship between the offender and the community. We can extend this idea to repairing the relationship between us (the offender) and G-d.

As the prophet Ezekiel says (18:32)

.כג הֶחָפֹץ אֶחְפֹּץ מוֹת רָשָׁע, נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה: הֲלוֹא בְּשׁוּבוֹ מִדְּרָכָיו, וְחָיָה

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not rather that he should return from his ways, and live?

While we speak terrible words of doom and fear (Who shall live? Who shall die?), I believe that that is not what the process is about. Life and death do not hang in the tip of a pen (a goose quill, no doubt). There is no one-to-one correlation between deeds and doom. Just ask Rabbi Kushner. If we are to believe that, there is no way but to despair.

In truth, it is all about returning to ourselves, to the beautiful, loving, innocent and joyous souls we are meant to be. That is when we are close to G-d and to other humans, and we can fulfil our potential as G-d’s creation, collecting divine sparks and repairing our damaged world.

As we prepare for Rosh HaShanah, let the beautiful voice of Neshama Carlebach, in the words of her father, remind you what it is all about. Thank you so much for reading my blog posts and travelling this road with me.

Shana Tova!

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