This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuvah the Shabbat of Return. It is the Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, during the 10 Days of Awe when we are supposed to do our most serious spiritual work – take account of our deeds for good or ill and to repair the damage we have caused to others.
Our Yom Kippur machzor reminds us that for sins against God Yom Kippur atones, but for sins between us and another person we must make amends to that person before Yom Kippur can atone.
This is difficult work and an intimidating task. It is hard to face up to our faults, apologize and ask for forgiveness. But our tradition tells us we have no choice.
This week’s Torah portion provides us some encouragement. Moses is about to pass his mantle of leadership to Joshua and he says, “Be strong and resolute: for you shall bring the Israelites into the land that I promised them on oath, and I will be with you.” (Deuteronomy 31:23)
Moses repeats this formula “be strong and resolute,” five times in this week’s Torah portion. It is a reminder that we can accomplish any task, no matter how daunting, if we have strength and faith.
Taking an honest accounting of our strengths, our weaknesses, and our failings and resolving to change is one of those daunting tasks. Perhaps that is why we read it on Shabbat Shuvah, to remind us that we are capable of change and growth so that we will make the effort.
May we all have a good and sweet New Year.