Resilience and Return: Mishkan Ha’am Rosh Hashanah 5780

What brings you here in this moment? Take a look around you. Some faces might be familiar, while others are new. Whether you’re here for the first time, or you’re well acquainted with this tent, we are all seeking to draw on the power of experiencing this sacred moment in community. One of the core themes of the High Holidays is Teshuvah. Often translated as “repentance,” a more literal translation of the Hebrew is “return.” At this time of year, we acknowledge the ways we have strayed, and set intentions for how we hope to return to our most righteous selves. A line from the High Holiday liturgy taken from the Book of Lamentations proclaims: Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha venashuva/Return us, oh God, and we shall return. (Hashiveinu and venashuva share the root of teshuvah). The early rabbis often questioned why words were repeated in the Bible, so why the double use of “return” here? One interpretation is that we each engage in a personal process of return, but we are also engaging in a collective process of teshuvah as a community.

            I believe our tradition makes teshuvah a central practice because it helps us maintain our resilience. When we commit to healing ourselves through teshuvah, we keep moving forward, acknowledging that we have the power to change. This is true for how we look at ourselves, and at the world around us. With the brokenness we see in our world today and the demoralizing headlines in the news, it is even more important, although challenging, to commit to doing the work of teshuvah that is necessary in our society. One unexpected dictionary definition for resilience is “the power or ability of a substance or object to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.” A rubber band is resilient because it returns after being stretched, so maybe our tradition was on to something when it instilled the idea of each person’s ability to return. We display our resilience through our practice of teshuvah, and we join here to support each other in this practice over the course of these holy days.

            I am delighted to be serving as the rabbinic leader for Mishkan Ha’am this year. Although I am just beginning my time here, I can already see what a warm, dedicated, caring and fun community this is. If you are new to this community, we welcome you! Mishkan Ha’am is a Reconstructionist congregation, meaning we seek to strike a balance between maintaining the best of our tradition and spurring innovative practices. Mishkan Ha’am means “sacred tent of the people,” and this name truly embodies the value that we place on each and every person that is with us. We want each of our voices to be heard, so we have communal discussions. We invite all to participate during our Torah service and we encourage questions throughout the service. We hope you will feel a part of our Mishkan.

            Wishing you each a sweet and joyous new year. May the year be filled with blessings, gratitude, meaning and teshuvah.

Solomon Hoffman
Rabbinic Leader, Mishkan Ha’am