75 words for 75 years of Israel – Teshuva/Repentance

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

תְּשׁוּבָה

TESHUVA

TEH-SHU-VAH

REPENTANCE

Return us, God, to You and we will return; renew our days as of old!” (Lamentations 5:21)

השיבנו יהוה אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם.

“God saw what they did, how they were repenting from their evil ways. And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.” (Jonah 3:10)

וירא האלהים את מעשיהם כי שבו מדרכם הרעה וינחם האלהים על הרעה אשר דבר לעשות להם ולא עשה.

Teshuva, Hebrew for “repentance,” comprises a critical aspect of our relationship with God. God knows that we are imperfect beings and understands that sometimes we fail and fall. We all have shortcomings and urges that lead us astray. But when we sin, all is not lost, for we have been given the great gift of teshuva, the opportunity to repent. Tellingly, the word teshuva also means “return,” for repentance is much more than regretting our sins or the promise to be better. Teshuva is the return to God and to our true and holy selves.

This spiritual return has the unique ability to overturn God’s decrees. “God saw what they did, how they were repenting from their evil ways. And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out” (Jonah 3:10). God loves humanity and does not want to punish us, and so He gives us many chances to repent before a punishment is actually carried out. 

The letters of the word teshuva, when rearranged, spell the word busha, meaning “embarrassment.” When we are truly embarrassed for having committed a sin, we are inspired to return to God and His ways.

The modern day return of the Jewish people to Israel is a national form of teshuva, as the prophet Jeremiah said, “Your children shall return to their country” (31:17). Though the Jewish people have not yet completed their spiritual repentance, their physical return to the land of Israel is an essential part of this historical redemptive process.

The Israel Bible Team

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