I want to talk about a song for this time in the Jewish year that my wife, Jamie, and I learned when we lived in Gainesville. Through the chavurah we belonged to at the time, we learned a song by a rabbi who was known for his singing and guitar playing, Shlomo Carlebach. This song strongly resonated inside me and helped me develop tools for doing the work that builds toward Yom Kippur. The song goes:
Return again, return again, Return to the home of your soul.
You who have strayed, Be not afraid; We are one in the eyes of the Lord.
Return to who you are; return to what you are; return to where you are –
Born and reborn again.
Return again, return again; Return to the home of your soul.
The words of this song seem simple on the surface, but to me they deliver the narrative of the work we do in preparation for Yom Kippur. We might have been thinking about this work over the past few weeks, but now that we are in the 10 days of awe, it is the time to act on those thoughts. These days are also called the Ten Days of Teshuvah. The Hebrew word Teshuvah is often translated as repentance. For example, in our machzor we read that teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah, translated as repentance, prayer, and charity, can avert the evil decree. However, translations often vary and many sources say that the more accurate translation of teshuvah is ‘return’.