Translation is a tricky task, fraught with the difficulties of capturing the nuance of a language, whose words may at times be nearly impossible to translate. Does schlep mean to pull, as my Yiddish-English dictionary indicates? Well, yes, but really it means so much more.
A timely example is the word Teshuva, which is usually rendered as repentance. However, to be accurate, the Hebrew word for repentance is charata. The root of the word teshuva is shuv, which means to return. Thus, teshuva more accurately means return.
What’s the difference? Well, for starters, repentance is a feeling of remorse about the past, and a resolve to change one’s behavior for the future. That’s a good thing — it’s just not what teshuva is.
Repentance means, “I messed up and now I will fix it.” Teshuva, on the other hand, is a return to one’s self. Teshuva means that I am inherently good, and I merely need to uncover my essential character. I don’t need to “start all over again,” or “become a new person.” Teshuvais a hopeful and reassuring action. It means that I am coming home.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi asks: If G-d fills the world, then why do I need to “return” to Him? I was never far!
Picture two people who are standing next to each other — but back-to-back. There is no greater distance that being right next to someone, and not even noticing them. So too, with G-d. Indeed, we are already very close to Him, all we need to do is “turn around.” It takes just a split-second.
Shabbat Shalom, and may you all be blessed with a sweet and happy new year!