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Turn, turn, turn

The Third Day of Awe has us concentrating on putting away the evil of our doings from before the eyes of the Divine:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Not so much putting them away as leaving them or turning from them, although I do like (as I said last time) the metaphor of putting away the last year’s evil, tidying up for the new year. I’m struck, at the moment, though, by the image of turning away from the evil of our doings. In Deuteronomy 11:16 we are warned not to turn aside and serve other gods. Too late, of course—in Exodus 32:8 the people have turned aside and made a Golden Calf.

It’s interesting (to YHB, anyway) that most of the uses of the phrase seem to be about turning (or not turning) away from the Correct Path, that is, the path of the Divine. It is used sometimes as it is here, to discuss turning away from Bad Things (Genesis 35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments) (Josh 7:13 There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.) but mostly it is the path of righteousness from which one either turns to the right or the left or, you know, doesn’t.

I’m going to go back to Job, though. Job’s great speech in Chapter 28 concludes with the verse: Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. If turning away from evil is understanding, is that what Isaiah asks of us? Or, alternately, is understanding required, in some way, for us to turn away from the evil of our doing? Is it fundamental that we understand the ways we have done wrong?

I’m still, though, focused on the image of us as turned toward the evil of our doings, with our backs to the Divine presence. The Divine—through Isaiah—asks us to turn. Turn away from the evil we did, turn toward the path of righteousness. Turning is one of the great metaphors of the Days of Awe. T’shuvah. Turning and returning.

The thing about turning is that is seems like it shouldn’t take much work. You don’t need to go anywhere to turn. Just face the other way. It seems the easiest of all possible actions. Going somewhere, that takes work. But turning? You can do that in a swivel chair. Only, somehow, I think the metaphor is correct, that turning is the hardest work.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.