Since the pandemic has forced us indoors, I’ve watched a tree outside my window bud, bloom, shimmer green, and now begin its winter slumber. The seasons change, and with them, so do our sensibilities. Spring, the month of Nisan, is the season of our renewal and hope. With Pesach, we celebrate our redemption by the hand of God and our birth as a nation. We begin our summer with the month of Sivan and the holiday of Shevuoth, commemorating the revelation of God’s law at Sinai, returning to active memory the eternal validity of God’s teachings and the way of life for Israel—guarding and fulfilling God’s will in this awesome world.
Time passes. The trees begin to change colors. Reds and yellows color the leaves. Winter is just around the corner, the month of Elul arrives, and our arduous work of repentance begins.
Think back to springtime. Remind yourself of the freshness of a new summer. Go even farther back into this strange year, 5780. Who is new in your life and who has departed? To whom do you owe an apology? And who might you forgive? What values did you live by in this past year? Did you extend your hand to a stranger, to a widow, an orphan? How did you approach each new day?
Repentance, teshuvah, begins with introspection, with preparing the spirit for its arousal at Rosh Hashanah. The shrill sound of the shofar awakens us from the laziness of summer. Says Maimonides, “Arise you who sleep and awaken you who slumber and search within your actions and repent and remember your Creator!” The shofar stirs us, invigorates us, while the rest of the world prepares for winter’s slumber.
Teshuvah is about dreaming without sleep. Dreaming of our own potential, striving towards it, committing to the ongoing process of self-improvement.
In the rhythms of nature and spirit, we face our personal enslavement, experience our redemption, acknowledge then our fallibility and our transgressions, and make teshuvah, and we pray to be once again written and sealed into the Book of Life for one more year.
In this new year, may we all be written in the Book of Life. In peace, in joy, and in good health.