This Shabbat we reach another in what I like to call “bridge” Shabbaths. This Shabbat bridges the festival that is Sukkot, Shabbat and leads us to Simchat Torah. The assigned special reading for Shabbat comes from Exodus and reminds us of the call to celebrate “the Feast of Weeks” (Exodus [34:22]) Then we move to the celebration this week of the end of the Torah readings cycle (v’zot ha’Torah) and immediately begin Torah again with B’reishet. What a confluence of emotions we face with these readings. The call for the festival, the death of Moses and the return to creation, all reach out us in this roller-coaster of events.
It is a meaningful event to participate in the ending and beginning of Torah. It is a literal symbolic enactment of life itself. Moses dies/ Torah ends as we finish Deuteronomy and immediately we start again with the first verses of Genesis. That cliché, “life goes on” is visible i n this moment. And it is a celebration, not a mourning. This, I suggest, speaks to us. As we reflect on our own life journey, how many times have we been confronted by the reality that life does go on. It is a great lesson in humility. We observe a memorial service as Sukkot ends. Again, our sense of reverence for what was and honoring those we love. And in the midst of this, renewal and new beginning. It is as if the tradition teaches us that the cycle of life is eternal and that part of our sense of self is to finally grasp this reality that we are here for a “blink of an eye” and that what we do with our “moment” does impact what we leave for the future.
That is why the beginning of Genesis is so important. We could just celebrate the end of the Torah cycle with the last chapters of Deuteronomy. yet, as quickly as we finish it, we return to creation, as if to be reminded that each generation, each new year each new day brings the potential to create a new part of our life. The Midrash from the High Holidays, that with this season we begin to write a new scroll, is played out on Simchat Torah. Again, we are given the opportunity to embrace the new. The opening words of Genesis have powerful meaning. “In the Beginning” is really a message to each of us.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Richard F Address