Parashah (portion) HaAzinu – Walking Through the Doors
Deuteronomy 32:1-52

We know the High Holy Days are upon us as we read, this week, the penultimate Torah portion of our yearly cycle, and find that the cries of Moses echo the yearnings of our own heart, the plaintive quality of our prayers at this time of the year. “HaAzinu!” petitions Moses: “Give ear, O Heavens, and I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth!” (Deut. 32:1)

The High Holy Days provide a space in which our words can be deeply heard; a safe container in which our feelings of anger, resentment, guilt and upset can be met with compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. In this space, we gather as a community to bear witness to each other’s pain, each other’s suffering, and each other’s struggles. Through our prayers and rituals, we are reminded of the universality of our experience, and draw support from one another as we engage on a journey that, although in community, in many ways, can only be made alone.

Our journey is a journey toward forgiveness. We seek to open our hearts more fully so that we are able to forgive those who have hurt us, and to forgive ourselves for the ways we, too, cause pain to others and to ourselves. This journey officially began again last night, with the observance of S’lichot. On S’lichot, we begin an inner process of acknowledging those times we have acted in hurtful ways. Though this is not about self-flagellation, the process is, nonetheless, about self-awareness and about taking responsibility for the ways we “show up” in our world. Such self-awareness and personal responsibility open for us the doors which lead down the path to true forgiveness, but we alone are the ones to consciously choose to walk through these doors. S’lichot offers us that opportunity: the moment to intentionally choose forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a loaded word, which, at times, gets in the way of our forgiving. Forgiveness doesn’t mean “pardoning,” it doesn’t erase nor denies what happened, nor does it abdicate the other’s responsibility. Forgiveness doesn’t release the perpetrators from what was; it releases me from carrying the story of what was into my present. Opening to forgiveness frees my heart from the weight of the past.

This week’s Torah portion is read, this year, on Shabbat Shuvah; the Shabbat of turning. Our turning is a returning, a remembering of the fundamental Divine nature of our Being, a remembering of the Divine nature of a Universe, of Reality.

Know, now, that I AM; I AM Is-ness itself. I AM that which manifests as Creation, there is nothing else. I AM death and I AM rebirth; I AM the wound and the healing. (Deut. 32:39)

L’Shanah Tovah.

© 2010 Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, All rights reserved.