Haftarat Vayetze: Two Types of Repentance

[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Hoshea 11:7-12:12

Yemenite Jews: Hoshea 11:7-12:14]


Our Haftarah presents us with two types of repentance: repentance unto Hashem and repentance to Hashem.


In his rebuke of the Nation of Israel, who was deeply entrenched in sin, the prophet Hoshea proclaimed: "Israel, return unto Hashem your G-d for you have stumbled in your iniquity.  Take words with you and return to Hashem" (Hoshea 14:2-3).  This linguistic pair “unto/to” is repeated numerous times, showing us that it has special significance (and in general, there is nothing fortuitous in the Tanach).  We see this doubling in other places: "Yet even now, says Hashem, return unto me…and return to Hashem your G-d" (Yoel 2:12-13).  And we read about the prophet Yirmiyahu: "Let us search and examine our ways, and return unto Hashem, Let us lift up our heart with our hands to G-d in heaven" (Eichah 3:40-41).  When we turn to the Oral Torah, we find a statement from our Sages that proper behavior which is not for its own sake reaches unto the heavens, while proper behavior for its own sake reaches to the heavens (Pesachim 50b).  In order to complete the list, we turn to the Torah itself: "And you will return unto Hashem your G-d…when you will return to Hashem" (Devarim 30:2-11).


It is quite clear that there is a distinction being made here, and we must try to figure out what these words mean with regards to repentance.  For this purpose, we permit ourselves to use the language of mathematicians.  The word "unto" ("ad" in Hebrew) means that the borders are not included and "to" ("el" in Hebrew) means that the borders are included.  Therefore, repentance unto Hashem does not include Hashem Himself.  But is repentance without Hashem possible?


Based on the theory of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, this type of repentance is seen in the Zionist movement, which has shaken the Nation of Israel over the last one hundred and twenty years.  He wrote at the end of his book "Orot Ha-Teshuvah" that the awakening of the Nation to return to its Land, its identity, its spirit and its character truly contains the light of repentance in it.  And this phenomenon is fully clarified by the Torah's expression: "And you will return unto Hashem your G-d…when you will return to Hashem" (Orot Ha-Teshuvah 17, 2).


Is it possible to find a rational explanation for a movement that causes the return of the Nation of Israel to its Land?  At the time of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, this movement was at its modest beginnings.  In our time, we have a state, an army, an economy, a living language and many of the fundamentals which contribute towards our national revival.  There are those who will protest: Zionism is a completely secular movement!  But do they know what is hidden in the recesses of the soul of Israel?  Have they penetrated our national sub-consciousness?


Maran Ha-Rav Kook (ibid.) concluded that this is inner repentance that is “covered over”, but there is absolutely no impediment which can prevent the supreme light from appearing upon us.


Secular Israelis envisioned for themselves a Holy Land without holiness, a holy language free of holiness, a Kingdom of Hashem on earth without Hashem, an army of Hashem without a King on High, even a Tanach free of Torah.  But we are not led astray by this.  We see the immeasurable self-sacrifice which allowed the national revival of the Nation of Israel.  We know with full confidence that the Jewish soul – including the pioneers before the establishment of the State and the soldiers after the establishment of the State until this very day – yearns for this return to, this inner repentance.


We are therefore optimistic.  We are confident that the Jews who repented unto Hashem will eventually repent to Hashem and everyone will be transformed into lovers of Torah.  And then all of the lovers of Zion will also become lovers of the G-d of Zion.