Posted on March 23, 2011
by Aron Cohen
This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuvah, and we read from Parshat Haazinu. Shabbat Shuvah is the Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. Shuvah comes from the root shav, literally meaning to return or to repent (to God, to the straight path).
The entire book of Devarim is Moshe’s final speech, delivered to the Children of Israel, summarizing the laws in the Torah. Moshe knows that he won’t be around much longer-the Israelites will enter the land of Israel, but he won’t be allowed to enter it with them. Devarim can be looked at as Moshe’s last chance to give the Children of Israel advice, just as a teacher will try to remind of all they’ve taught you before you leave him/her for the summer holiday.
If Devarim is Moshe’s last words of advice, Haazinu is Moshe’s last call to the Children of Israel with his most important thoughts, as your mother might call out to you as you are walking out the door to remind you to take a sweater. Moshe tells the people to remember Judaism, to remember Hashem, and to remember their roots. Moshe doesn’t know where the people will end up, but he knows he won’t be around to look after them and that they tend to get into trouble.
Haazinu consists of Moshe’s reminders to the Children of Israel for when they enter the land of Israel. As important as we believe first impressions to be, it is our last impressions of our friends that will remain embedded in our memories. Thinking back over my summer, I have memories of the first few weeks, but the last week of Wheels really determined how I remember people. Although God can easily recall the whole year, the way we act over the next few days reflects how we will be remembered for the entire year.
We are taught “On Rosh Hashannah it is written, and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed”-it being God’s decision to either inscribe you in the book of life or not. We are constantly given chances to repent. Even after our fate is written, we still have the chance to go back and change it.
We should take every opportunity to repent, to make things right. We won’t always be so lucky to have a second chance. Take a moment to call up that friend you haven’t gotten along with for a few weeks, or sit down with your parents if you’ve been arguing lately. While these people will most likely be around after Yom Kippur, it’s better to start out the year with a clean slate¼ on good terms with everyone, and especially, on good terms with God and with yourself.
May everyone’s year be one of blessing, and may you all have a meaningful fast on Yom Kippur. Shabbat Shalom and Shanna Tova!