This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuvah (Shabbat of Return) because it falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and contains extraordinary spiritual energy to reconnect to God
In this week’s portion of Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1–30), we learn that despite God’s displeasure with the Jewish people, the Torah “will not be forgotten from the mouth of their offspring” (Deuteronomy 31:21).
This proclamation reiterates God’s promise, “I will not reject them… or break my covenant with them” (Leviticus 26:44).
This eternal and unwavering bond between God and the Jews exists because of the power of repentance (Tshuvah), which means “to return (Shuvah) to God.” As it says, “return unto Me…and I will return unto you” (Zechariah 1:3).
Returning to God is highlighted in this week’s special haftarah (prophetic reading), which begins with the words “Shuvah Yisrael,”which means "Return O Israel to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity" (Hosea 14:1).
Hosea continues, that although the Jews are unable to over sacrifices in the Temple, they can repent of their sins and “offer their words of prayer in place of sacrifices” (Hoshea 14:2).
Hoshea’s prophetic statement is an irrefutable refutation to the missionary argument that “without a Temple or sacrifices, Jews can no longer repent directly to God.”
Sacrifices served to awaken feelings of remorse and motivate repentance. Hoshea states that prayerful words of confession and regret brought anywhere can accomplish the same thing as sacrifices.
Our prayers on Shabbat Shuvah prepare us for Yom Kippur, which is the most auspicious time to return directly to God and experience the Almighty in our lives.
Yom Kippur is so holy; it is customary to give extra charity before the holiday. We also fast for the entire day, as it says, “I humble myself with fasting” (Psalm 31:13).
May you merit through the observance of these special days to return to God and receive God’s abundant blessing.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz