This week marks the beginning of the season of teshuva, of return and repair in all facets of life before Rosh Hashanah. The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av is known as Shabbat Nachamu, after the words of the haftarah. Nachamu nachamu ami -- Comfort, comfort my people.
From the depth of the fast day, recalling so much national tragedy, so much distance of the Jewish people from God, we immediately begin the spiritual climb. Even the last verses of Megillat Eicha (Lamentations), the graphic poem of destruction which we read on the fast, point this way. Hashivenu Adonai elecha v'nashuva -- Return us, Adonai, to you and we will return.
And so the Torah reading, Parashat Vaetchanan, brings out the big guns. We hear from the mouth of Moshe the Ten Commandments, and the Shma. The parasha is both a loud wakeup call, and a vote of confidence in us. God says: You don't need a slow healing, a gradual climb back to spiritual health. Let me show you the heights. Let me remind you of who you have been and who you could be again -- who you will be!
Still, we have these seven weeks to put ourselves in order. To look at our relationships -- in our families, among our friends, with others in our community. To ask whether we are leading our lives by the values we claim to living by. To think of any changes of direction. This is an agenda for weeks, not for the hearing of one reading of the Torah. The days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, even the single month of Elul is not enough.
So the Torah exhorts us, sets the bar, brings back the wisdom we know is out there. And the haftarah encourages us, lifts us when the burden of teshuva seems heavy. May we be blessed with both throughout these weeks. The wisdom and the encouragement we need to repair, to heal, and to begin a new year.