A few weeks ago, on the Shabbat of Martin Luther King weekend, one of our rabbis spoke at services about teshuvah. The word is often translated as "repentance," especially as it applies to our task before the High Holy Days. But it means, literally, "to turn"--to go back to the place where we should have been, all along. The rabbi compared Dr. King to Ariel Sharon, apologizing in advance for his audacity. He wanted us to understand how both their lives and actions embodied teshuvah--very different paths to that road, but not as far apart as we might imagine. Dr. King taught us the teshuvah of a tzaddik, a person of holiness. We continue to try to reach this place of heaven, of fairness and equality, where mankind is supposed to be, but we are merely human; we're not yet capable. Sharon's kind of teshuvah, however, is more easily within the reach of our flawed selves. It is the teshuvah of letting go, even if just a little bit. We can all do this. Sharon took steps to lead Israel down a road of compromise that went against much of what he stood for throughout his career; whatever you think of his politics (like the rabbi, I do not like them one bit), it's hard to dispute that this change did not take some measure of personal courage.
I thought of the rabbi's words this week as we continue to read Moses' pleas to Pharoah to let his people go and allow them to return to the place where they belong. On Shabbat we all yearn to go back home and be free--from the stresses of work and daily life, from the little tyrannies imposed by others as well as by ourselves. I think it's a pretty big achievement to leave even one of those bits of bondage behind for one day of the week--teshuvah on a small level, accepting that just a little is OK, for now.
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