The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuvah, based on the first word from the prophecy of Hosea, “Shuva, return”. Hoshea calls out, “Return, O Israel to the Lord your God.” This year, the Torah reading is from the Parashat Vayeilech, which tells us that Moses walked before the people, guiding them until his final breath in words of Torah. In this New Year, can follow in Moses’ footsteps, we can try to walk before and with others, to make a positive difference in this world and inspire others to do the same.
The return that is asked of us by Hosea is to the charge that was given to us by Moses as we wandered in the wilderness on our way to the Promised Land. There, when we first received Torah at Sinai, binding us in a covenant of service to God, Moses called upon us to be “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” We were meant to be leaders among humanity in giving service to the life force, for that is ultimately what God, “the one”, is. We are called to be a faith people, a people whose awareness was formed in the cauldron of oppression, and whose consciousness calls us to a life of service. The revelation at Sinai followed the redemption from Egypt precisely to teach that as we were saved from destruction, so we must work for creation. These ten days of repentance, of return, as highlighted in the charge from Hosea, challenge us to return to that life of service, a life modeled by Moses, who “walked the walk” to his final breath.
In this holy community there are many people who walk the walk – feeding the hungry and homeless through a variety of communal organizations, advocating migrant rights, opening their homes to the stranger, providing transport for those with limited mobility, visiting the sick, and supporting many just causes through generous philanthropy. But each of us, as part of this holy community and holy people can still do more, can still do better. To enter a life of service by performing deeds of love gives us infinite possibilities of connection and meaning within our finite life.
Thus, in this New Year, we are hoping to further our work together with you to truly make a difference. We invite each of you to think of a way you may want to do service, give love, in this year ahead – from some of the ways mentioned above, to coming to a Shabbat morning minyan once or twice a year to support those in mourning, to welcoming others in the Synagogue on Friday night and Shabbat Morning, to whatever you imagine you can do for our community.
I want to invite you to write an email to the office with the way you wish to engage in holy work in this year ahead. If you know you want to give service, but are still unsure which is the best way, just ask and we will speak with you about opportunities. In the weeks ahead, we will then be in touch to work with you as we return to our heritage, our call, to be a holy nation, through our deeds bequeathing our heritage to the generations to follow. May we follow in Moses’ footsteps, and walk the walk of love and good deeds.