As the calendar begins to approach a new decade–in just one year it will be 5780, as the reality of a soon-to-be majority of the world’s Jews living in Eretz Yisrael under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in almost two full millennia, as the spiritual awareness of people around the world grows more universal and compassionate (no, of course we’re not there yet, but before one arrives, one must necessarily approach), perhaps we can take a new look at Tshuva, usually (inadequately) translated as “repentance”, but perhaps better thought of as a return and a reset to our full potential as humans and as Jews.
For almost my entire life, Tshuva was presented as doing more (or, in the case of Aveyrot, misdeeds and sins, doing less). If I learn Torah and hour a day, let’s increase it to two. If we give five dollars daily to Tzedaka (Charity), up it to six! If we’ve inspired five Talmidim, students to learn an extra hour a week, convince them to learn two extra!
And perhaps, if we haven’t this past week eaten two pounds of cheeseburger, let’s not eat three! (Of course, there is no quantification of prohibitions, and not eating treif means not eating ANY treif, but the point in this exaggeration was made many years ago by Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman, zt”l, one of my teachers in Jerusalem and considered by many to have been the Talmid Chacham most brilliant Torah scholar of his recently past generation).
I see a different direction for myself this year and in the future. As a teacher, as a rabbi, I want to encourage and enable Jews, especially those with little or no previous background, those who have been turned off by past expressions of coercion, fanaticism and intolerance, to explore and engage even just a little more this year in any side or expression of Judaism they feel comfortable and potentially at home with.
There is no One Way of engaging with and observing Torah, just as there is no One Size Fits All approach to reach out lovingly to fellow Jews (not to mention reaching out lovingly to fellow humans, but that, perhaps, is the second step). Each of us, Judaism compels us to realize, and everything God Created to make this universe, is intentional, and, as such, deeply and decisively needed to complete the final steps of our co-project with The Creator of completing and perfecting all Creation. Nothing and no one can be rejected, even if we, personally, might not see the value in them.
So, if our Tshuva can be expediting their Tshuva, even just a tiny bit, that might be the final piece that clicks into place.
Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Chatima Tova, 5779