Congratulations! We have all made it to the first Shabbat of 5772. For the past week (or more) we have been wishing each other, “L’shana tova tikateyvu,” (may you be inscribed for a good year). Now, having passed Rosh Hashana and coming up to Yom Kippur we change the greeting to, “g’mar chatima tova,” (may your final sealing be good).
This change in greetings invokes a similar tone as the haftara we will read this Shabbat, Shabbat Shuva. The haftara, with sections coming from Hosea and Micah, focuses on our t’shuva and God’s great mercy.
Before and during Rosh Hashana, as we all wish each other a g’mar chatima tova, we are actively engaged in t’shuva. We approach one another and ask for forgiveness.
We examine our deeds and assess where we have not measured up over the past year. And, we look to see what mitzvot we can commit ourselves to fulfilling in the year to come, thus realigning ourselves toward the direction that God desires for us.
Then, as we move past Rosh Hashana and toward Yom Kippur, we focus more on God’s mercy and forgiveness. Were Yom Kippur not on Shabbat we would recite the familiar prayer, Avinu Malkeinu, four times. Since it is Shabbat we omit this prayer until Neila, as the day is closing. The most familiar refrain is the last stanza where we sing, “though we have no worthy deeds, treat us with justice and kindness and save us.” We recognize that try as we might, on an eternal scorecard and with limitless expectations, we can never measure up. Therefore we ask to be judged with kindness.
We need God to relate to us as a parent relates to their children. A parent showers limitless love upon their children and God sends the same love to us. Our job, as we go through Shabbat Shuva and the remainder of the Ten Days of Return, is to recognize the love that God has showered upon us in the past year. God’s love is limitless; we just have to be able to see where it exists in our lives.
G’mar chatima tova.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)