The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuva - the Sabbath of Turning - after the haftarah, which begins Shuva Yisrael - "Return O Israel to the Lord, your God" (Hosea 14:2). It is often called Shabbat Teshuva - Sabbath of Repentance - as well. Besides its special haftarah, Shabbat Shuva is marked in some synagogues by a traditionally lengthy discourse about repentance. In Easter Europe, rabbis spoke only twice a year in the synagogue - on Shabbat Shuva and on the Shabbat HaGadol before Passover.
The Jewish Holidays, Michael Strassfeld
(2) Return, O Israel, to Adonai your God, For you have fallen because of your sin. (3) Take words with you And return to Adonai. Say to Him: “Forgive all guilt And accept what is good; Instead of bulls we will pay [The offering of] our lips. (4) Assyria shall not save us, No more will we ride on steeds; Nor ever again will we call Our handiwork our god, Since in You alone orphans find pity!” (5) I will heal their affliction, Generously will I take them back in love; For My anger has turned away from them. (6) I will be to Israel like dew; He shall blossom like the lily, He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree. (7) His boughs shall spread out far; His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s, His fragrance like that of Lebanon. (8) They who sit in his shade shall be revived: They shall bring to life new grain, They shall blossom like the vine; His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. (9) Ephraim [shall say]: “What more have I to do with idols? When I respond and look to Him, I become like a verdant cypress.” Your fruit is provided by Me. (10) He who is wise will consider these words, He who is prudent will take note of them. For the paths of Adonai are smooth; The righteous can walk on them, While sinners stumble on them.
This Song embraces all the affairs of the nation and its vicissitudes, from the time it went forth from Egypt until the end of generations. Our Sages worded this function of the Song in the following manner: "Great is this Song since it contains within it the present, and the past, that which is to come, this life and the Hereafter." It is indeed a remarkable thing that the more the intelligent reader pores over and studies this chapter, the more he will be astonished by it and find comfort and joy in all the troubles and misfortunes which have befallen us, since our dispersion till now. For there is nothing which has not been foreseen in this little Song and in the sublimity of its words and content. Just the same as the exile, subjection and wandering our Kind and Lawgiver warned would befall us have indeed overtaken us, so will the hope in the future be strengthened in us, that Adonai will comfort us in God's good time to restore us as God's people, as in ancient times.
Moses Mendelssohn's Biur, 18th c
Nahmanides (Ramban) divides the Song into four sections:
- The Song opens by describing the kindness God bestowed on us...
- Follow by a record of God's bounty...in the wilderness...
- Then it is recorded how we could incur divine wrath...
- The Song subsequently relates that Adonai will repay our enemies
(1) Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter! (2) May my discourse come down as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass. (3) For the name of Adonai I proclaim; Give glory to our God!
(4) The Rock!—His deeds are perfect, Yea, all His ways are just; A faithful God, never false, True and upright is He. (5) Children unworthy of Him— That crooked, perverse generation— Their baseness has played Him false. (6) Do you thus requite the LORD, O dull and witless people? Is not He the Father who created you, Fashioned you and made you endure! (7) Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past; Ask your father, he will inform you, Your elders, they will tell you: (8) When the Most High gave nations their homes And set the divisions of man, He fixed the boundaries of peoples In relation to Israel’s numbers. (9) For the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob His own allotment. (10) He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watched over him, Guarded him as the pupil of His eye. (11) Like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, Gliding down to his young, So did He spread His wings and take him, Bear him along on His pinions; (12) The LORD alone did guide him, No alien god at His side. (13) He set him atop the highlands, To feast on the yield of the earth; He fed him honey from the crag, And oil from the flinty rock, (14) Curd of kine and milk of flocks; With the best of lambs, And rams of Bashan, and he-goats; With the very finest wheat— And foaming grape-blood was your drink. (15) So Jeshurun grew fat and kicked— You grew fat and gross and coarse— He forsook the God who made him And spurned the Rock of his support.
(16) They incensed Him with alien things, Vexed Him with abominations. (17) They sacrificed to demons, no-gods, Gods they had never known, New ones, who came but lately, Who stirred not your fathers’ fears. (18) You neglected the Rock that begot you, Forgot the God who brought you forth. (19) The LORD saw and was vexed And spurned His sons and His daughters. (20) He said: I will hide My countenance from them, And see how they fare in the end. For they are a treacherous breed, Children with no loyalty in them. (21) They incensed Me with no-gods, Vexed Me with their futilities; I’ll incense them with a no-folk, Vex them with a nation of fools. (22) For a fire has flared in My wrath And burned to the bottom of Sheol, Has consumed the earth and its increase, Eaten down to the base of the hills. (23) I will sweep misfortunes on them, Use up My arrows on them: (24) Wasting famine, ravaging plague, Deadly pestilence, and fanged beasts Will I let loose against them, With venomous creepers in dust. (25) The sword shall deal death without, As shall the terror within, To youth and maiden alike, The suckling as well as the aged. (26) I might have reduced them to naught, Made their memory cease among men, (27) But for fear of the taunts of the foe, Their enemies who might misjudge And say, “Our own hand has prevailed; None of this was wrought by the LORD!”
(כח) כִּי־ג֛וֹי אֹבַ֥ד עֵצ֖וֹת הֵ֑מָּה וְאֵ֥ין בָּהֶ֖ם תְּבוּנָֽה׃ (כט) ל֥וּ חָכְמ֖וּ יַשְׂכִּ֣ילוּ זֹ֑את יָבִ֖ינוּ לְאַחֲרִיתָֽם׃ (ל) אֵיכָ֞ה יִרְדֹּ֤ף אֶחָד֙ אֶ֔לֶף וּשְׁנַ֖יִם יָנִ֣יסוּ רְבָבָ֑ה אִם־לֹא֙ כִּי־צוּרָ֣ם מְכָרָ֔ם וַֽיהוָ֖ה הִסְגִּירָֽם׃ (לא) כִּ֛י לֹ֥א כְצוּרֵ֖נוּ צוּרָ֑ם וְאֹיְבֵ֖ינוּ פְּלִילִֽים׃ (לב) כִּֽי־מִגֶּ֤פֶן סְדֹם֙ גַּפְנָ֔ם וּמִשַּׁדְמֹ֖ת עֲמֹרָ֑ה עֲנָבֵ֙מוֹ֙ עִנְּבֵי־ר֔וֹשׁ אַשְׁכְּלֹ֥ת מְרֹרֹ֖ת לָֽמוֹ׃ (לג) חֲמַ֥ת תַּנִּינִ֖ם יֵינָ֑ם וְרֹ֥אשׁ פְּתָנִ֖ים אַכְזָֽר׃ (לד) הֲלֹא־ה֖וּא כָּמֻ֣ס עִמָּדִ֑י חָתֻ֖ם בְּאוֹצְרֹתָֽי׃ (לה) לִ֤י נָקָם֙ וְשִׁלֵּ֔ם לְעֵ֖ת תָּמ֣וּט רַגְלָ֑ם כִּ֤י קָרוֹב֙ י֣וֹם אֵידָ֔ם וְחָ֖שׁ עֲתִדֹ֥ת לָֽמוֹ׃ (לו) כִּֽי־יָדִ֤ין יְהוָה֙ עַמּ֔וֹ וְעַל־עֲבָדָ֖יו יִתְנֶחָ֑ם כִּ֤י יִרְאֶה֙ כִּי־אָ֣זְלַת יָ֔ד וְאֶ֖פֶס עָצ֥וּר וְעָזֽוּב׃ (לז) וְאָמַ֖ר אֵ֣י אֱלֹהֵ֑ימוֹ צ֖וּר חָסָ֥יוּ בֽוֹ׃ (לח) אֲשֶׁ֨ר חֵ֤לֶב זְבָחֵ֙ימוֹ֙ יֹאכֵ֔לוּ יִשְׁתּ֖וּ יֵ֣ין נְסִיכָ֑ם יָק֙וּמוּ֙ וְיַעְזְרֻכֶ֔ם יְהִ֥י עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם סִתְרָֽה׃ (לט) רְא֣וּ ׀ עַתָּ֗ה כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י אֲנִי֙ ה֔וּא וְאֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִ֖ים עִמָּדִ֑י אֲנִ֧י אָמִ֣ית וַאֲחַיֶּ֗ה מָחַ֙צְתִּי֙ וַאֲנִ֣י אֶרְפָּ֔א וְאֵ֥ין מִיָּדִ֖י מַצִּֽיל׃
(28) For they are a nation void of sense, Lacking in all discernment. (29) Were they wise, they would think upon this, Gain insight into their future: (30) “How could one have routed a thousand, Or two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, The LORD had given them up?” (31) For their rock is not like our Rock, In our enemies’ own estimation. (32) Ah! The vine for them is from Sodom, From the vineyards of Gomorrah; The grapes for them are poison, A bitter growth their clusters. (33) Their wine is the venom of asps, The pitiless poison of vipers. (34) Lo, I have it all put away, Sealed up in My storehouses, (35) To be My vengeance and recompense, At the time that their foot falters. Yea, their day of disaster is near, And destiny rushes upon them. (36) For the LORD will vindicate His people And take revenge for His servants, When He sees that their might is gone, And neither bond nor free is left. (37) He will say: Where are their gods, The rock in whom they sought refuge, (38) Who ate the fat of their offerings And drank their libation wine? Let them rise up to your help, And let them be a shield unto you! (39) See, then, that I, I am He; There is no god beside Me. I deal death and give life; I wounded and I will heal: None can deliver from My hand.