30 August 2012, 3:34 PM
One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, is t’shuvah. Literally, t’shuvah is returning—it is called repentance, sometimes, or restoration, perhaps, but the literal sense is returning.
We return, in our minds, to those things we were thinking about last year at this time. We promised to improve, to break our bad habits and form good ones, to make recompense for the harms we caused and to avoid making new ones. How did we do? How did I do? Where did I fall short? When I failed to keep a promise, should I make the same promise again? How can I keep it this time?
We return, in the rabbinic literature, to the Divine—when we fail to live up to our better selves, we alienate ourselves from the Divine. Now, as we pray, apologize to the Divine and to each other, and make recompense, we return to ourselves and to the Divine. We return, at least for a time, to those better selves that have been in the Divine keeping, waiting for us.
We return, in the body, to the synagogue. Some of us have been hanging around during the year—I was there last Saturday, and the Saturday before that—but whether we are returning after a fifty-one weeks or after a few hours, or even if we are turning to a new synagogue, we are back in front of the ark where we were last year.
We return, in the calendar, to autumn. Or spring, I suppose, if we are in the southern hemisphere. It’s the equinox, anyway. My experience of Rosh Hashanah, though, is of autumn, the trees beginning to turn, or at least (I grew up in the desert, you know) the nights and early mornings growing cool. Returning to school. Returning the sweaters to the closet and the swimsuits to the attic. Returning to shorter days, returning to longer nights.
And I intend to return to this Tohu Bohu. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,