When the Torah is returned to the Ark we sing the words, Hashivenu HaShem elecha v’nashuvah: chaddesh yamenu k’kedem – “Bring us back to You, O Lord, and we shall return – renew our days as they were”.
The words come from the end of M’gillat Echah (Lam. 5:21), which of course is read on Tishah B’Av.
In Echah we have the prophet Jeremiah speaking on behalf of the people. They have lost their Temple and their land and they yearn to come back to God’s city and House and to live a life without the enemy and the exile. A sentiment that completely fits in to the theme and mood of Echah – but what is it doing in the Siddur?
It is an assertion of our belief that Israel, the land, the people and the faith are all interwoven: if God brings us back to the land, then the faith and the Torah will flourish again.
We well know that the reality as we see it before our eyes is not yet complete, but there is already so much Torah in Israel that no-one can deny that we are on the road to the fulfilment of the hope of the ages. We bring the Torah back to the Ark and imply, “God, help us to bring the Torah to every corner of the Land of Israel”.
We can also read into the words of Hashivenu the prayer that we may be enabled to bring the Torah to every corner of the Jewish people.
There will be some who will always resist being mitzvah-observant, but let their non-observance at least be based on knowledge of what it is that they do not observe. If they choose not to believe, let them at least know what it is that they do not want to believe in.