By D. Thomas Lancaster, First Fruits of Zion—
An entertaining drama has a lot of nail-biting suspense and uncertainty. What’s going to happen to your favorite characters? They’ve gotten themselves into quite a pickle this time!
The last chapter of the book you are reading (or the last episode of the drama you have been watching) ended with a big cliff-hanger. It left your heroes dangling precariously over a dangerous fate. You want to keep reading (or keep watching) to find out what will happen next. Hopefully they will find some key piece of information or important weapon or tool that will help them escape from certain doom at the very last moment.
This is the drama of the high holidays. Rosh HaShanah leaves us hanging, uncertain of our fates, breathlessly anticipating the big finale at Yom Kippur when everything will be resolved for better or worse. The special Sabbath called “Shabbat Shuvah” comes between those chapters, offering us the tools and instructions we need to survive this predicament.
Shabbat Shuvah falls in the ten-day window of time known as the yammim nora’im, a term that literally means “days of awe” or “fearsome days.” The term “days of awe” refers to the heightened sense of the fear of the LORD that we feel during the high holidays. From Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, we are ever conscious of God’s impending judgment, the punishment due our sins, and the short amount of time we have left to do anything about it. The days of awe are days of uncertainty and anticipation. We don’t find out what happens next until Yom Kippur. Continue Reading…