Turn, turn, turn! — The Week's End (September 9, 2022)
Sep 9th 2022

The Hebrew language and Jewish tradition have several verbs related to transgression. The most well known is the verb חָטָאhattah, to sin.  The noun is חֵט et, is also the word for “arrow”. Archery is the imagery for missing the mark in whatever we set out to achieve. Like an arrow that misses the bull’s eye, there is nothing wrong with the arrow itself; it has simply not arrived where it is optimally desired.

The two other verbs for sin which appear frequently in the High Holy Day prayer book are עָוִיתִי aviti — עֲוֹןavon, I have transgressed over iniquities, and פָּשַׁעתִּי pashati — פְּשָׁעִים pesha’im, I have rebelled in rebellions. All three verbs are used together in the confession of the High Priest during the Avodah Service on Yom Kippur.

When we sin, we feel embarrassed for our actions. The Hebrew verb for being embarrassed is בּוֹשׁ bosh. This verb appears seldom in the maẖzor, but prominently in the Cantor’s Prayer, the Hineni, where it is combined with the aforementioned terms: “Do not condemn them for my sins, do not hold them liable for my crimes, for I am a sinner, I do wrong, do not let them be disgraced by my sins, for let them not be ashamed of me, nor me of them ...” וְאַל יֵבֹֽשׁוּ בִּי וְאַל אֵבֹֽשָׁה בָהֶם.  

How do we turn it around? Switch the letters around: בוש is שוב. Embarrassment leads to repentance.  You might want to twirl yourself around. Look at a situation the other way around or at another angle from which you did not see before.

With best wishes for a Shanah Tovah!