Unity and Torah are the Foundations of Teshuvah

Our Sages say, “Great is Teshuvah, for it reaches to the Throne of Glory, as it is said: ‘Return, O Israel, to the L-RD your G-d’ [Hosea 14:2]” (Yoma 86a). From this we see just how great and importance Teshuvah is. True, we are past Rosh Hashanah, following many prayers and blasts of the shofar, yet we need to understand that there is something special about Shabbat Teshuvah, something that is not found in any other Shabbat.

We should realize that there are two basic principles upon which we can easily return to G-d, namely Jewish unity and Torah. In fact the prophet states, “Return, O Israel” (Hosea 14:2) and “Take words with you” (v.3). Which words are these? They are the words of Torah, as well as ones of unity and love among the entire Jewish people. We cannot repent if we are not united with others, for the Sages have said: “For transgressions between man and his fellow, Yom Kippur does not procure atonement until he has pacified his fellow” (Yoma 85b). It is only when we find ourselves united with others that we can appreciate the seriousness of our sins and repent with all our heart and soul.

This is why the prophet states, “Return [shuvah], O Israel” with the singular term shuvah, not the plural term shuvu. It is because all Jews must be completely united, for then they can repent like a single person in complete Teshuvah before Hashem.

Nevertheless, let no one think that unity alone is enough for complete Teshuvah. Absolutely not! A person also needs the power of the Torah, which is what the prophet alludes to by stating, “Take words with you.” These consist of the words of Torah, for what is written in the Torah returns a person to the right path (Yerushalmi, Hagigah 1:7). The light within the Torah shows a person just how much he must improve his deeds and repent, not only of the sins that he committed against others, but also of those he committed against G-d.

We need to pay careful attention to this if we want to merit a good year. Thus the greatness of Shabbat Teshuvah, which occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, lies in its ability to help every individual engage in complete Teshuvah.

In addition, on Yom Kippur we also forcefully demonstrate our unity, for at the beginning of Yom Kippur we say, “We hereby grant permission to pray with those who have transgressed.” We want to be united with all Klal Israel, even with those who do not always come to synagogue. All this is in order for love, fraternity, and unity to reign among the entire Jewish people. We can completely repent in this way; we have the power to do it.

In addition, these two things – the principle of unity and Torah, the two foundations of Teshuvah – are alluded to at the beginning of Parsha Haazinu. There it is written, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth…” (Deuteronomy 32:1). The heavens are an allusion to the words of Torah, to the mitzvot between man and his Creator, for which Teshuvah must be made. The earth is an allusion to the mitzvot between man and his fellow, dealing with the entire subject of unity, for which Teshuvah must also be made. A person must not neglect any of these main components, and he should constantly think of how he can improve himself in these areas. It is only in this way that we can reach G-d and the Throne of Glory.

If we remain united and strengthen our Torah study, we will merit a good year filled with blessings and an inscription in the book of the righteous. Amen.


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