By Shani Taragin
In this week’s parshah, we find a continuation to the covenant of blessings and curses presented by Moshe to Bnei Yisrael in parshat Ki Tavo (chapter 28). The primary element in this covenant is the involvement of Eretz Yisrael as a medium and barometer of mitzvah observance. Following Moshe’s warning of the inevitable exile from the land, he adds an element of hope; when the curses materialize, there is still a possibility of repentance and restoration. In chapter 30, known as “parshat hateshuva v’hageula (verses 1-10),” the verb “shav – return” appears seven times, serving as a “mila mancha” (motif) to highlight the process of teshuva.
The first stage begins with “vaheshevota el levavecha (30:1)” – ironically, when in galut, you shall undergo introspection, which leads to the next stage – “vshavta ad HaShem Elokecha (30-2)” – return to mitzvah observance. These two stages of return are reciprocated by HaShem; “Veshav HaShem Elokecha et shevutcha (30-3)” – HaShem responds to our initiative of teshuva / repentance with teshuva / restoration in two stages as well – return of the exiled and of the dispersed.
The process culminates only once we are in Eretz Yisrael wherein our hearts are “circumcised” to properly love God (30-6), and from where HaShem will seek vengeance against our foes (30-7). At that point, “teshuva” is again employed (10-8) – returning to full mitzvah observance for now the “mitzvot hateluyot baAretz” can be fulfilled as well. The final stage of our repentance is once again compensated for by Hashem, who will restore the blessings in bounty. The unit ends with a reminder as to how the process is set in motion – “ki tashuv el Hashem Elokecha bechol levavcha uvechol nafshecha” – we have to initiate the process.
The above is meant not only to inspire hope following exile, but also to teach us what teshuva is all about. It is a two-part process of three stages: returning to ourselves, returning to mitzvah observance, and only once we are in Eretz Yisrael (i.e., part two), full repentance through mitzvot of the land. It is also a process reciprocated by God: our return catalyzes His restoration and redemption through the land. On a national level, complete teshuva can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael. Return to Eretz Yisrael is an expression of HaShem’s returning to us (see Megillat Ruth, chapter 1).
God assures us that if we initiate, He shall return to us as we do to Him – “Shuvu Eilai vAshuva aleichem.” (Aloh- Ya’aleh!)
Originally appeared in OU Israel’s Torah Tidbits