The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of returning, and it's customary for the d'var torah or sermon to focus on the themes of the season. This is the d'var torah I gave in our minyan yesterday.
Early in the pandemic, when grocery-store shelves were sometimes empty, I started growing a few things to see if I could produce at least a little of my own food. I've always had kind of a brown thumb, but I'd managed to not kill a basil plant that had come in a farm-share box the previous year, so I was game to try.
I didn't grow a lot – more herbs than vegetables – but the cherry tomatoes I planted were extremely bountiful. Encouraged by that success, I planted more. Last year I found myself fighting unknown critters -- I got a few of the tomatoes but I found more that were half-eaten on the ground. Netting didn't help. Tabasco sauce didn't help. So this year I tried a different variety and a different location.
I got to keep three tomatoes. On the day I was going to harvest six more -- they'd been almost ready the previous day -- I found that something had eaten all the tomatoes and most of the leaves besides. The plant looked dead. I left the dejected remains in the pot for the end-of-season cleanup and stopped watering it.
A couple weeks ago I was pruning some other plants and cut away all the dead stems on that plant while I was at it. Then an amazing thing happened: it put out new shoots, then new leaves, and this week, three small tomatoes. That plant stood up to attack followed by neglect and came back strong despite it all.
During the high holy days we focus a lot on our own actions and the things we have done wrong. We focus on making amends for our mistakes, on doing teshuva and turning in a better direction for the coming year. We try to make things right with the people we've hurt. These are all critical things to focus on, and I don't have much to add that hasn't been said hundreds of times before.
Instead, today I want to talk about being on the other side -- about being the one who has been hurt. We know what to do when those who hurt us do teshuva, but what about when they don't? Teshuva is hard, and we know it won't always come.Read more…