Compiled by Dina Fraenkel

The Shabbos between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbos Teshuvah, the Shabbos of Repentance. It is called Shabbos Teshuvah because it falls during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. Of course, this is only the simple reason for the name. As with everything else in Torah and Judaism, there is a deeper meaning. The name “Shabbos Teshuvah” actually indicates that the actual day of Shabbos enhances one’s repentance, that the teshuvah of Shabbos Teshuvah is superior to the teshuvah of the other Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.

Often, the parsha of Ha’azinu is read on Shabbos Teshuvah. In the beginning of the parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu says, “Listen heaven and I will speak; hear earth the words of my mouth.”1 According to the Sifri, when Moshe spoke to heaven, he used the word ha’azinu, which connotes closeness, but when he spoke to earth, he used the word v’sishma, which connotes distance. This teaches us that we should strive to be like Moshe, close to heaven and distant from earth.

How are we, Poshuter Yidden (simple Jews), supposed to reach such a high level like that of Moshe Rabbeinu?

First we have to understand the connection between Shabbos and a higher level of teshuvah. In the sefer Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains that “the teshuvah of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah involves the soul’s essence, while teshuvah during the rest of the year involves only the soul’s inner powers. Thus, the former period of teshuvah is far superior to the latter.”2 The teshuvah of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and the teshuvah of the rest of the year correspond to two levels of teshuvah teshuvah tata’ah (the lower level) and teshuvah ila’ah (the higher level). Teshuvah tata’ah reunites one with Hashem by rectifying one sins, while teshuvah ila’ah is when the soul completely returns to Hashem and cleaves to its Source.3

The levels of teshuvah tata’ah and teshuvah ila’ah also correspond to our avodah (service) during the weekdays and our avodah on Shabbos. During the week, we go about our daily lives trying to infuse a spark of Hashem into everything around us, similar to teshuvah tata’ah, when we try to infuse our soul with G-dliness. The sanctity of Shabbos, however, automatically takes us to a higher level, since we are not involved in mundane work and can reach higher levels of holiness.4

The inherent holiness of Shabbos automatically makes the teshuvah of Shabbos a higher level of teshuvah, because our souls are already elevated on Shabbos, so it follows that we are even more elevated during the Shabbos of the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.5 Therefore, we can understand the difference between the teshuvah of Shabbos Teshuvah and the teshuvah of the other Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.

On another level, since we know that all things in Yiddishkeit are intertwined, the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur correspond to each of the seven days of the week of the past year. Each day that we do teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we rectify all of our misdeeds on that day of the week over the entire past year. For example, the teshuvah of Sunday is a teshuvah for all the Sundays of the year. Based on this, even though the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah is a period of teshuvah ila’ah, it is still the teshuvah of weekdays and so is not the highest level.

However, it follows that Shabbos Teshuvah corresponds to all of the Shabbosos of the past year, which are already teshuvah ila’ah and inherently superior to weekdays, so how much more so the teshuvah of Shabbos Teshuvah is the highest level of teshuvah of the entire Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It is the level of teshuvah ila’ah that we reach on Shabbos Teshuvah that allows us to attain our goal of being like Moshe Rabbeinu – “close to heaven and distant from earth.”

In the merit of our efforts to do teshuvah, may Hashem bless us with the greatest gift, the Geulah Shleimah and the Beis HaMikdash HaShlishi bimheirah v’yameinu.

1) Devarim 32:1.
2) Likkutei Torah, Savo, p. 43d.
3) Iggeres HaTeshuvah, ch. 8ff; Likkutei Torah, beginning of Ha’azinu.
4) Torah Or, 13a, 65b-c, 113a; Likkutei Torah, Balak, 72a ff.
5) Iggeres HaTeshuvah, ch. 10; Likkutei Torah, Shabbos Shuvah, p. 66c.