A SONG OF TESHUVAH – REPENTANCE
Teshuvah [te’shoo’vah] – generally translated in English as ‘repentance’ – derives from the Hebrew root shuv, which means to return; to retore something to its rightful place.
Our Father-Creator calls to all His children who wander in the darkness and emptiness of the world’s brokenness, with its facade of materialism, humanism, glitter and bright neon lights, to return to Him; to discover and express one’s true being and to live the life for which He created us.
When we forget who we are, or maybe never have been taught, and neglect the inner life of our soul, we are left with doubt, confusion and darkness of understanding that result in waves of bitterness and pain. Our spirits long to be set free in order to become who we truly were created to be. When our hearts longingly turn to God, immediately the light of teshuvah shines in our souls and the darkness is joyfully illuminated.
In his profound work, Orot HaTeshuvah ( Lights of Repentance), Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook teaches that the deep spiritual gloom of worldly existence is due to its failure to align itself with the light of teshuvah. He writes:
“What is the source of the anger of the wicked?
What is the meaning of their rage against the entire world?
What is the basis for their bitter depression, which consumes their spirit and flesh,
and poisons their experience of life?
…Those people who are righteous, who are people of goodness and of kindness,
people who possess gladness of life,
call out to the wicked, who are wretched:
“Come and live; return!” *
Teshuvah restores man to a state of true well-being and joy. Rav Kook, or simply HaRav, – the Rav, as he is affectionately referred to, describes it as “…the healthiest feeling of the spirit.” He lived in Eretz Yisrael from 1906 to the year of his death,1935, and served as Chief Rabbi during pre-State years. He had a deep love for the Land and the people of Israel and was distressed at the spiritual darkness that had descended even among some religious groups. These often represented repentance and a godly life as somber and joyless – a life of deprivation and legalistic bondage. To the contrary he proclaimed,
“Teshuvah does not come to embitter life but to sweeten it.”
He concludes Orot HaTeshuvah with a prayer and a petition that:
“…a singer of teshuvah will surely come for us who will be a sign of life, …a sign of the national soul [of the people of Israel] that is on the journey of Redemption.” **
In fact, today, many harpists and singers with a song of Redemption are being raised up in Eretz Israel and in the nations.
Harp sculpture and olive tree at Mamilla Mall steps
outside Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem
HaRav summons all searching souls to listen to the “Whispers of Holy Existence”.
All existence whispers to me a secret
“I have a life to offer, take it, take it –
…If every gentle sound,
Every living beauty
Stir you not to a holy song,
But to some alien thought
Then leave me, leave. I am forbidden to you.”
A generation will yet arise
And sing to beauty and to life
And draw delight unending
From the dew of Heaven
And a people returned to life will hear
The wealth of Life’s secrets
From the vistas of the Carmel and the Sharon
And from the delight of song and life’s beauty
A holy light will abound
And all existence will whisper,
“My beloved, I am permitted to you.” ***
Young musician playing a song of praise
on Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem.
In our Father’s great grace, faithfulness and mercy, this generation could well be the generation who, with spirits yearning for the fullness of the light of truth and the reality of God’s Word and Presence, are finding the chords of David’s harp and singing a new song. A song of teshuvah, a song of return to the Source of Light and Life in joy, restoration, hope and praise. A song that offers a healing of all that is broken and lost in the world of increasing evil and darkness.
Selah and Amen.
Singer of Teshuvah
When Messiah descended
He played a Shepherd’s harp
With strings of chesed ve’emet – lovingkindness and truth
A gentle song
Wooing, healing, restoring.
“I have not come to judge the world but to bring life.”
Life as a mustard seed
To be sown in all the nations
To grow like a tree
Which draws sap from its roots
And offers a home
A shelter to all
Who would gather in its branches
And find life in its fruit.
When Messiah descends once more
On clouds of glory, to Jerusalem
His Father’s dwelling place
He will play the King’s harp
As David his earthly ancestor did
First as a shepherd, then as a king
With strings of rulership, power and authority
A song of peace and justice and truth
To establish our Father’s Kingdom
In all its fullness and beauty
And all peoples and kings and nations
Will gather to their true Source
And find life in His Word
And delight in His Presence.
Selah and Amen
~Keren Hannah Pryor
* Orot HaTeshuvah 8:4, quoted in the Introduction of the two-volume set ‘Song of Teshuvah‘ by Moshe Weinberger.
** Ibid., 17:5
*** Orot HaTeshuvah, Ohr Etzion edition, 157-158. English translation by Yaacov Dovid Shulman.