Jewish Journal


August 14, 2012

40 Days to Yom Kippur - A Prayer on “T’shuvah” by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi


This coming Saturday evening (August 18) at nightfall is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month that precedes the High Holidays. From the first of Elul to Yom Kippur is exactly 40 days, the same period of time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai communing with God and receiving Torah.

Tradition beckons us during these 40 days beginning Saturday night to “turn” and “return” in a process called t’shuvah, the central theme of the High Holiday season. The goal of t’shuvah is to return to our truest selves, to God, Torah, Jewish tradition, community, family, and friends. It requires us to make amends, to apologize for wrongs committed and seek forgiveness, to forgive when approached by others seeking the same.

As we prepare to enter Elul, I share a prayer written by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi called “T’shuvah – Coming Back Around” (All Breathing Life Adores Your Nam e –At the Interface Between Poetry and Prayer, with a Forward by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and Edited by Michael L. Kagan, published by Gaon Books, 2011, page 97):

A year has gone by,
I say with a sigh –
O Lord I did not progress.
Your Torah not learned,
Your Mitzvot not earned,
This I am forced to confess.

I undertake
This to remake
My life anew to fashion.
So help, me please,
From sin to cease
And only to You
Give my passion.

I seek Your light,
I need Your aid.
Without Your joy
I am afraid.
Heal me God
In body and in soul.

Please, good God,
Pour out Your blessing,
That in Your sight
We’ll be progressing.
O Lord above,
Let us feel Your love
And perceive You,
Our souls caressing.

May we not be
In waiting for ben David
With Your open hand,
Bless our Holy Land
And our leaders
Whom we have appointed.

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