Parashat Nitzavim – the Teshuvah tie-in in the text

There are several echoes of the High Holy Days in this Torah portion that is one of the last ones we read before the Jewish New Year arrives. This is the season of teshuvah, which is built from the Hebrew root “shuv.”

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Rabbi Alan Lew of blessed memory

The late Rabbi Alan Lew, z’l, in his book This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, points out that in one passage of this week’s Torah portion, words with the Hebrew root “shuv” appear 7 times, providing a parallel text that urges us over and over, shuv, shuv, shuv. Return, return, return to the goodness inside, to the source of your spirit, to the part of you that represents the best within you – it’s there, inside, waiting for you to return to it. Here’s the passage in Hebrew and with English translation, with each instance of the word shuv / return highlighted.

Deuteronomy 30: 1 – 10                           Parashat Nitzavim

א  וְהָיָה כִי-יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי, לְפָנֶיךָ; וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ, אֶל-לְבָבֶךָ, בְּכָל-הַגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה. 1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things have come upon you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, and they you will take them [ha-shev-ota] to heart, among the nations to whom the Eternal your God has driven you,
ב  וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְקֹלוֹ, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ, הַיּוֹם:  אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ. 2 and you will return [v’shav-ta] to the Eternal and listen to God’s voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your being,
ג  וְשָׁב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-שְׁבוּתְךָ, וְרִחֲמֶךָ; וְשָׁב, וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שָׁמָּה. 3 then the Eternal your God will return [v’shav] you from your captivity, and have compassion on you and turn [v’shav] and gather you in from all the nations where you have been scattered.
ד  אִם-יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ, בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם–מִשָּׁם, יְקַבֶּצְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וּמִשָּׁם, יִקָּחֶךָ. 4 If you be thrust-away to the ends of the heavens, from there the Eternal your God will collect you, from there God will take you
ה  וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ–וִירִשְׁתָּהּ; וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ, מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ. 5 and the Eternal your God will bring you to the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it.   God will do well by you and make you many-more than your ancestors.
ו  וּמָל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְאֶת-לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ:  לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ–לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ. 6 And God will circumcise the foreskin of your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love the Eternal with all your heart and with all your being, in order that you may live.
ז  וְנָתַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֵת כָּל-הָאָלוֹת הָאֵלֶּה, עַל-אֹיְבֶיךָ וְעַל-שֹׂנְאֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר רְדָפוּךָ. 7 And the Eternal your God will place all those threats upon your enemies and on those that hate you, that pursue you,
ח  וְאַתָּה תָשׁוּב, וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקוֹל יְהוָה; וְעָשִׂיתָ, אֶת-כָּל-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ, הַיּוֹם. 8 But you, if you return [ta-shuv] and listen to the voice of the Eternal and observe all God’s commandments that I command you today,
ט  וְהוֹתִירְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶךָ, בִּפְרִי בִטְנְךָ וּבִפְרִי בְהֶמְתְּךָ וּבִפְרִי אַדְמָתְךָ–לְטֹבָה:  כִּי יָשׁוּב יְהוָה, לָשׂוּשׂ עָלֶיךָ לְטוֹב, כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׂשׂ, עַל-אֲבֹתֶיךָ. 9 then the Eternal your God will make you excel in all the doings of your hands, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your animals, and in the fruit of your soil, for well-being, indeed, the Eternal will return [ya-shuv] to delighting in you, for well-being, as God delighted in your ancestors –
י  כִּי תִשְׁמַע, בְּקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו, הַכְּתוּבָה בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה:  כִּי תָשׁוּב אֶל-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.  {ס} 10 if you listen to the voice of the Eternal your God, by keeping God’s commandments and God’s laws – what is written in this document of instruction – if you return [ta-shuv] to the Eternal your God with all your heart and with all your being.
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