This Shabbat is Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat that falls between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Our tradition teaches that the gates of repentance are always open, and we are constantly reminded that it is never too late to change one’s ways and start anew. The haftarah for this Shabbat begins, “Shuvah Yisrael…” (Return, O Israel…). (Hosea 14:2)
That idea of returning, or turning to a different path, permeates the season. What’s significant, perhaps, is not that we are repeatedly given opportunities to change, but that we need them. None of us is perfect, there’s always room for improvement. What this Shabbat and Yom Kippur reminds us is that not only can we always return, but also forces us to ask ourselves why we aren’t starting right now. If it’s never too late to begin, it’s also never too early to start.
In my sermon on Rosh HaShanah, I shared with you my thoughts on having hope and feeling gratitude, especially in moments that are difficult for us. Yom Kippur with its laws and regulations to fast and “atone“ is too often understood as a burden, but actually, Yom Kippur is a happy day, reassuring us that the above mentioned change is possible and that God is with us every single moment of our lives. God is stretching out God‘s hand on Yom Kippur, awaiting us at the open gates.
May you all be sealed in the book of life, rewarded for your honesty towards yourself and God. May you gain strength from Yom Kippur to master the tasks that await you in the coming year. May you feel God’s Presence within you always, and never lose faith and trust in God and God‘s people.
Gmar chatima tova!
—Rabbi Adrian M Schell