Each of us, as we have seen, bears a very great responsibility for our teshuvah, our actions and inaction. Rabbi Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, inspires us with the need for and hope of a repentance which can begin in every human soul and spread through the world.
When one forgets the essential nature of the soul, when one ignores the quality of introspection, everything becomes confused and in doubt. The principal repentance, which immediately illumines the dark places, is the return of a person to themselves, to the source of his/her soul and immediately s/he will return to God, the Soul of all souls and s/he will progress higher and higher in holiness and purity.
The principle of chaos occurring at all times because existence is forgetful of itself, applies to individuals, to an entire nation, to all mankind, as well as to the betterment of all existence… Therefore, through the great truth of return to the self shall there be return of humanity, the nation, the world and all worlds, existence in its entirety to its maker, to be illuminated by the light of life. And this is the secret of Messiah’s light – the manifestation of the world’s soul; at whose radiance the world shall return to the root of existence, and the light of God shall be revealed upon the world and from this source of great repentance man shall draw the sacred life of repentance in its true sense.
Rabbi Kook’s Philosophy of Repentance pp. 101/102
Shanah tovah, and may we all of creation be inscribed for life.
As we move through the month of Elul we have the opportunity to work on ourselves, in the hope that we might begin a new year ready to make changes and to be the person we feel we could be. At Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the birthday of the world, and as we begin 5780 we know that our actions are increasingly not only impacting on our ‘environment’ (as if we ourselves were somehow detached from it) but changing and endangering our futures in the world.
This Elul, therefore, Reform Judaism is focussing on what wisdom and reflection Judaism can offer us, and encourage us in the changes necessary to make a difference in the upcoming year. Though we begin with ourselves, we do not end with ourselves. The changes we make, in our attitudes, understanding and behaviour affect all around us – our families, communities, our work place, the organisations we belong to, the government and the world itself. It begins with us.
The texts and reflections for this series have been drawn together by Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, together with members of the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors who are credited individually when appropriate. Reflecting together and learning in partnership has made this a much more meaningful process for us, and if you have the time and someone willing, we hope these texts might also provide a wonderful opportunity for learning with a partner (or chavruta). As Pirkei Avot 1:6 says “make for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend”.