For our community, the Festival of Sukkot now draws to its conclusion with Simchat Torah. Dancing with the Torah scrolls will be a part of this celebration in every community. The High Holiday season that began in solemnity, concludes with dancing and singing. And then, back to the routine!
This week, we will begin again to look at Torah from its’ opening lines. And that is what I wanted to mention. As we know, the Torah begins with the Hebrew letter “bet”. There have been lots of stories and interpretations on why the “bet” begins Torah and not the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the “aleph”. The one that I like the best also speaks to us as Boomers.
If you look at the letter “bet”, it is closed on the bottom, on the top and in the back, but, open to the future. Indeed, the entire Torah emerges from that open space. Creation begins. This is very meaningful to us, in a way, for as we age and acquire a sense of life learned wisdom, many of us come to understand that, as much as we wish, we cannot re-do what was. Rather, like that “bet” our lives are open to the future. Creation of that future does rest, in many ways, with what we choose to do. These themes of choice and control, if you remember, are vital themes that play out in the High Holiday liturgy.
Part of this idea is also being open to the future. Yes, none of us can predict what will happen in the year that is now beginning. However, we can approach an attitude that teaches us to be open to the possibilities of a creative and powerful future. This really goes to the traditional understanding that life is a blessing and that we are given the choice to embrace it, be open to it, or stay still and fear it. Again, that choice is ours to make.
There is a wonderful little saying in the tradtion that says our life are like blank scrolls, at this time of year, we begin to write what our next year will be. The “bet”, open as it is to creative tomorrows, can be a nice symbol of what is possible; if we so choose. Chad Sameach!
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.