Alumni Dvar Torah: Returning to our Hearts, and to Israel

Josh Meisel


Parshat Nitzavim

By Josh Meisel, ’12

This week’s Parsha contains the concept of teshuva in it. The Rambam actually uses the psukim in the parsha as the source for the mitzvah of Teshuva. In Perek 30, the root of the word Teshuva is used a few times. In one context it says: V’hashevota el levavecha (30, 1). It says you shall return to your heart. Then it says that Hashem will return. The next few Psukim then talk about Hashem returning us back to the land of Israel (these are the pesukim we quote in the misheberach for Medinat Yisrael). After that again we see the concept of teshuva come back again. What’s the connection? Is the Torah simply restating a concept because they feel that it is that important?

There are two ideas I would like to suggest. The first dealing with levels of Teshuva. As we all know, teshuva is a process and it has a few steps that need to be carried out. Sometimes these steps take time, but at other times it can be achieved in one moment (as we saw with Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya).
I would like to argue that the first part of Teshuva is not to necessarily to return to hashem (t’shuv hashem). The first step is to return to yourself, el levavcha. You need to find yourself and return to your true self. This is the time to define or redefine yourself. Now we have an idea as to why this parsha is so close to Rosh Hashana! During Rosh Hashana, we have the opportunity to actually recreate our genes. We insert personality, will power, etc… into our being. This is the time to start from the beginning, to go to the deepest level of oneself. The very blueprints to your essence. Now that we understand the first level of teshuva, we can move to the second one.
Once we know ourselves and what we want, only then can we begin to return to Hashem. How can one be expected to connect to the ultimate Creator if they can’t even connect to themselves. This step is now to return to Hashem and rebuild that connection. Now it is time to find Him and know his desires and carry them out with love.
So now that we see that there was a reason for mentioning teshuva twice, what is the section of Hashem bringing us back to Eretz Yisrael doing in the middle? Maybe Hashem is trying to send a message to us, and this may even possibly relate to Israel today. If we take take that first step of teshuva, showing that we are trying and willing to change, then maybe that is the time that Hashem says now I will return you to Israel (v’heveacha). However, now that we are in Israel, there is still a lot of work to do. It is time to work on the second half of teshuva, to return to Hashem.
We still have a lot of work to do, but the time is in front of us! You can already here the Shofar, the tefillot. Take this chance now to recreate yourself and make your plan to return to yourself and Hashem. With this coming year, we should hope to do full teshuva and be zoche the bringing of Mashiach zidkenu b’karov mamash.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova from Eretz Yisrael!