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Tshuva as the Foundation for the Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Discourse

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute

In a provocative and thoughtful column, my teacher, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, writes:
...The refocus of our High Holidays on the human responsibility to change is founded on a number of essential principles which are of great significance, especially this year. The first is the belief that change is possible. Our tradition is not naive about human beings. It knows that in general perfection is impossible and failure is endemic to the human condition. At the same time the deepest meaning of our belief in free choice is that no particular failure is inevitable, and at the same time that no particular failure is incapable of being overturned. 
...A Jewish society is one where there is a constant openness to confront one's own failings and which is in regular search for paths of self improvement. To assume one's righteousness and concentrate one's efforts on pointing out the failures of others is again to ignore the principle of tshuva and its spirit on which our tradition is founded. 
...Prime Minister Netanyahu, as you go to Washington, my bracha to you and through that to our people and to all people of our region, is that you go as a Jew. I pray that you allow the spirit of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to define the attitude and spirit of the policies you represent. It is not about being right or about winning this or that political concession in order to sustain a coalition. It is about transforming our future. It is about bringing back the belief in the possibility of a new and better future for us all. It is about recognizing that attaining this future begins with giving an account of what we might have done to impede it and what we can do to help make it a reality. It is about recognizing that greatness is not achieved by attaining atonement but by earning one's destiny through the difficult and noble path of tshuva.
I hope that our tshuva might bring peace. Let us indeed pray that Israeli and especially Palestinian leaders are brave enough to look within and change.