Shabbat Nitzavim/Vayelekh 5773

Read any section of the Torah carefully enough, and you will see literary genius at work. We’ll see a word appear again and again in a short passage, begging us to notice it as the central idea of that section. Then, we are beckoned to look closer, to see if there’s a pattern to the repetition, and another lesson will emerge.

Read the Torah this week, specifically Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (you get the entire chapter, but only need the first ten verses). Even though the translation, because of context, doesn’t always use the same term, we note that the word shuv–return–appears seven times in the section (verses 1, 2, twice in 3, 8, 9, and 10). 

This is, for practical purposes, the introduction of the idea ofteshuvah into Jewish thought. Before that, we had kapparah–atonement–but not teshuvah. Since it’s a novel concept when Moshe addresses it in this farewell speech, we can learn a great deal about teshuvah from the way he uses the term.

So to prepare for Shabbat and for this season of teshuvah, read these 10 verses closely, and consider these questions:

When does teshuvah happen? What preexisting conditions are needed?

Who makes teshuvah happen?

How long does it take for teshuvah to happen?

We’ll look closely at this section in shul on Shabbat morning. 

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom v’Shanah Tovah,


Rabbi David Wise