For the week of September 18, 1999 / 8 Tishri 5760
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22:1-51
Replaced by: Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy (Micah 7:18).
This Shabbat falls in the midst of the traditional Days of Awe - the intermediate days between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year or Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is a time when many seek to put their lives in order to prepare for Yom Kippur.
The Haftarah is made of three portions that relate to the theme of repentance. Repentance means to return (Hebrew: shuv). It is the act of changing direction from going our own way back to God.
Hosea chapter 14, verses 2-5 (verses 1-4 in the English Bible) clearly portrays what it means to repent. I will briefly comment on these verses.
In order to truly repent we need to accept that we have sinned. It does us no good to blame others or circumstances for our spiritual condition. The prophet is clear, "Your sins have been your downfall."
We need to speak to God. Ancient rituals do not substitute for our need to personally come before God with our own words. Prayer is not a ritual. It is simply talking to our Heavenly Father who hears us.
What do we say? First, we ask him to forgive us. We cannot make up for our guilt through our actions. We need to be pardoned by him. Second, we ask him to receive us graciously. We are not granted acceptance because of what we ourselves have done, but rather by his grace alone.
True repentance acknowledges that God alone can help us - not governments, not things of nature, not our own inventions. For even the most helpless of society find help in God.
God's response to true repentance is full restoration. He will heal us from our tendency to go astray. He will freely love us, holding no bitterness or anger toward us due to our past wrongs.
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