This week, we are presented with a long list of blessings and a longer listing of curses, and I was intrigued by this verse towards the end of the parasha:
In the morning you shall say, “if only it were evening!” and in the evening you shall say,”if only it were morning!”- because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see. (Deut.28:27)
In this text we hear the lament about both the future and the past. The Targum Yerushalmi understands the Hebrew as the lament for the future. But the text can be rendered as if it were looking into the past: In the Talmud (B. Sotah 49a) it is read: If only it were (still yesterday) evening.” By this rendering, we now hear a wish for a return to the past. “While we do not know how things will be, we know what they were in the past.” (R. Gunther Plaut)
During this time when we are approaching the Holy Days, we are continually invited to visit our past year and engage in the act of t’shuvah, which literally means, returning. This process has two parts: to return to the errors that we made, accept that we failed at living our best practices, and seeking forgiveness from those we have harmed.
The second step is to t’shuv ourselves, to re- turn ourselves back to living according to our highest principles (middot) and values. By making this effort, we fine-tune our inner voice that helps us to be sensitive to the impact of how we are in the world, to where we can cause harm and where we can raise the holy sparks of a generous and compassionate way of being.
Our text implicitly asks, How do we meet the future? By the dual practices of seeking forgiveness for the past and gratitude for the next chance to act wisely. We ask, what do you want to bring with you from this past year’s experience into the new year? What did you learn from those moments when it didn’t go as well as it might have?
Equally as important to consider is, how do you treat yourself for having failed? Does the lament of our verse cement you into the harsh tochecha/rebuke that is actually an indulgence of mooring ourselves in remorse? Or does it ask you to look both to the past and move into this next year, strengthened by what you have learned?
And so the journey of these weeks continues.....