This is Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of return and repentance. This particular Shabbat is a rowboat on the seas of the Days of Awe. We feel secure as the waves gently undulate beneath us. We hold our oars and know how to navigate, to port or starboard. We are lulled by the sounds of the sea that are, after all, the first sounds we heard while still in utero. The repetitive rhythm comforts us.
And yet we know how quickly things can change when a storm is coming. The sky darkens. The wind changes direction. The sea, once so calm and nurturing now becomes rougher, and we begin to feel unsafe, and vulnerable.
Yom Kippur is the rough sea ahead. It’s a time to think about who we are and what we are supposed to be. It’s a time to shed light on the darker places of our soul. We know we didn’t always do the best we could do. Instead we did the expedient thing. We took shortcuts. We chose the easy way, not the best way. We have said things we regret. And we have left unsaid words of love and comfort. And forgiveness.
The best thing we could possibly do over Yom Kippur is to think about who we want to be in 5781. It’s about the only thing we do have control over. It’s the only thing we can be sure of in this new year: that we have choices. We are not doomed to stay locked in regret and grudges. We are not consigned to the locked room of resentment . We hold the key. Are we willing to do the work to open the door of our heart?
It’s complex, you might say. I know. You may candidly acknowledge that your anger and hurt feel too important and definitional to let go of, that somehow forgiveness makes you weak. But forgiveness is a sign of strength and character. And: it’s really difficult. But letting go of the sharp pieces you’ve held so close to your chest is profoundly liberating.
But this is Shabbat Shuva, the calm before the storm. Right now, in this space in time. Breathe. Feel the warmth of this day. Give thanks. Call someone with whom it’s been too long and just say, “I’ve been thinking about you. Have a safe new year and have a meaningful fast.” Nothing fancy. If you have someone to hug and/or kiss, give them a special one, a Shabbat Shuva kiss for comfort and appreciation.
Then get the oars out. Check the soundness of your boat. We’ll provide the lifejackets.