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    Three types of penitence

    teshuvah tshirtThe verse, “You shall return to the Lord your God” (Deut. 30:2), is one of the basic sources of the idea of penitence, turning back to God.

    The traditional meaning is of sinners recognising, ruing, repenting and abandoning their sins, and in that sense the High Holyday services are full of penitence.

    A second shade of meaning is of a Jew coming back to Judaism from the periphery of Jewish life, re-adopting the ways of belief and observance.

    In that sense the current age is one of what has been called reversionism, Jews rediscovering their tradition and reverting to its practice.

    “Reversioners” are, thank God, everywhere in today’s Jewish world. Janet Aviad has written a whole book on the phenomenon as we find it in the State of Israel.

    The sages say, Lo alman Yisra’el, “Israel is not bereft”, and these words have the ring of prophecy come true.

    In addition, an IsraeIi writer, Ehud Luz, points out that even this does not exhaust the meaning of teshuvah, return.

    The word certainly means repentance and return – but it also connotes response. In that sense every human being sometimes feels a compelling call to do something, to show his or her loyalty and commitment, to regain his or her place in the spectrum of human responsibility.

    Franz Rosenzweig used theological categories to explain it when he said that sometimes, even when we least expect it, God calls to us and says, “I am the Lord your God. I call you out of love. Your response is to love the Lord your God. This is God calling – please respond by loving Me.”

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