What does it mean to 'return' - and is it even possible to fully 'return'?
The commandment "Return" תשוב｜tashuv appears again and again in our Torah portion - always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.
Unlike a train journey or a flight, the process of returning in Judaism isn't only physical. (Many of us do take these Holy Days as a cue to physically return to our worship halls and prayer spaces, and I hope for those that feel comfortable, you will talk with Deborah, Janine or Melissa in the office, and make this pilgrimage part of your regular routine throughout the year.) Return is also a search for new spiritual connection and regrowth. As much as we seek tradition and a return to what was - in the words of both Bachya ibn Pekuda and Thomas Wolfe, we can never go home again.
Each of us have grown since the last time we were able to pray the High Holy Day liturgy together in person:
When the Shofar wails, the call will wake us up to a year in which we are still navigating what is 'responsibly' and what is 'safe';
When Yizkor is recited, many of us will have fresh wounds, remembering those who were beside us just recently;
And whenever the harmony of the choir rings out, I pray we will feel lifted by the possibility of a restoration.
In this beautiful composition, sung by a friend of the Reform Movement, Neshama Carlebach, she asks that each of us 'return to the land of your soul'. One of the things I know about Neshama is that she is a deeply thoughtful person, who wrestles and fights for redemption of reputation through true תשובה ｜ t'shuvah. This lyric always reminds me that a sense of renewal starts within. Even our repairing of relationships with each other requires deep inner strength and resolve, and a mature understanding that repair isn't truly restoration to what was, but rather a push towards what can be achieved anew.
This Saturday evening is the choral Slichot service. I hope that, as we listen to the moving melodies of the High Holy Days, we are able to wrestle with what a "return" means for each of us, knowing that return isn't restoration, but rather change and renewal.
Shannah Tovah U'Metukah｜שנה טובה ומתוקה, and wishing that we all have the chance to Titchadesh｜תתחדש , find renewal, security and peace.