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Seek the LORD while He may be found...
Marc Chagall

Turning to God

Thoughts on Tehuvah and the High Holidays...

by John J. Parsons

Hosea 6:6 Hebrew Text

"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call out to him while he is near."

THE THEME OF THE HIGH HOLIDAYS is teshuvah (תְּשׁוּבָה), a word often translated as "repentance," though it is more accurately understood as turning back (i.e., shuv) to God.  In spiritual terms, teshuvah may be regarded as a practical turning away from evil and a turning toward the good, though it is simpler to regard turning to God as the means by which we turn away from evil. Indeed the Greek word translated repentance (i.e., μετάνοια) means going beyond our habitual thinking, changing our mind, and learning to see from a radically new perspective. As we look to God, we see that "everything is new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

Teshuvah, or "repentance," believes that the kindness of God can give life to our dead hearts, and therefore it is first of all a matter of faith, trusting God to perform the miracle for us.  However, even though it is a great gift from heaven, repentance requires honesty and acknowledgment of the truth. We must confess our inner poverty, our neediness, and mourn over the loss and harm caused by our sin (Matt. 5:2-8). Repentance turns away from our attempts to defend or justify ourselves and instead turns to God to heal our separation from Him (Rom. 8:3-4). Teshuvah buries our old nature by being made into a new creation.

It is no small thing to believe the message of Yeshua, and indeed, it involves a passionate inwardness that "scandalizes" the rational mind. Our father Abraham is extolled as the model of righteous faith, but he was tested to sacrifice the moral law (e.g., "thou shalt not murder") when he lifted up the knife to slay his beloved son Isaac. Faith requires you to change your everyday thinking, to go beyond natural expectations, to "walk on water." In the case of Yeshua, we are confronted with the "Absolute Paradox," namely, the God-Man, the Infinite-made-Finite, the Holy-made-Profane, the Sinless-made-Sin, who says to you: "I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). You will never die; you will never hunger; you are made whole through my brokenness; you will be cleansed by my defilement, and so on. It's not just hard to believe, it's impossible, which is why it is a miracle of God to be saved (Matt. 19:26). "It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is no help at all" (John 6:33). The difference is Yeshua: "Salvation is of the LORD." We are enabled to love and know God by means of his inner life and spirit, not by means of good intentions or religious zeal. Faith itself is a miracle, the power of God.

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew Transliteration

dirshu Adonai behimatzo, kera'uhu bihyoto karov

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