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When Jacob returned to Israel after twenty-two years of being a minority in the city of Haran, where his uncle Laban lived, he said “I sojourned with Laban . . . and I acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants.[1]
Why did he announce that he had sojourned with Laban, …

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Home » Bereishit Parshah

Bereishit: The Quick Turn Around

Submitted by on October 24, 2008 – 3:30 pmNo Comment | 1,341 views

The End of a Time

The High Holiday season has drawn to a close. The drama of Rosh Hashanah, the aura of Yom Kippur, the joy of Sukkot and the dancing of Simchat Torah all passed in a frenzy of activity. There were services, rituals, programs and oh so much food. The pace was frenetic and at times I couldn’t wait for it to end, but now that it has ended all I feel is a void. The color and spark of these days are now behind me and ahead of me yawns a long year that seems dull by comparison. It is the sweet sadness of reaching the end.

But last night something changed. Just after we chanted Havdalah and parted with the holiday something inside me drove me to hold on to its charm. I began to look forward and planed new classes, programs and activities. I started looking for ways to channel the energy of this wonderful month into the drudgery of the every day, and as I did, I felt the gloom lift: my heart once again skipped a beat, a warm glow reentered my soul.

The Future Awaits

As a child this lesson was always driven into me; “look to your past only to take a lesson for your future.” The moment we chanted Havdalah the holidays had slipped into the past. The choice was now ours; spend the next few days revisiting the past or pour the holiday’s past into the days ahead of us. The key was the immediate turn around; as soon as yesterday ended we allowed tomorrow to begin. Lag time or down time allows the magic to slip away leaving tomorrow truly bereft. Furthermore, allowing the magic to slip away leaves the past impotent, unable to impact or benefit the future. (1)

This is the message of the Torah reading on Simchat Torah. On the last day of the holiday we read the final verses of the Torah. We mark this joyous occasion with great fanfare, but we do not allow the celebrations to stand in the way of starting again. The moment we finish the Torah, we perform a quick turn around and begin again.

Our sages taught that the prosecuting angels complain to G-d that though Jews study the Torah, they fail to follow through once they have concluded their studies. We respond to this charge on Simchat Torah by denying ourselves even a moment of lag time between the conclusion and the beginning. Reaching the end of the Torah does not drive us to book a vacation and recover from the effort, on the contrary it drives us to make immediate use of the knowledge we have gleaned to enhance the studies on which we embark.

This then is also the message of the Torah portion we read on the first Shabbat after the holidays, Bereishit – in the beginning. Every moment in life is a beginning. The previous moment has slipped into the past and this moment begins anew. We do not waste time dwelling over the moments that have passed, a moment wasted, is lost forever, Instead we embark on immediate beginnings, but beginnings that follow from previous conclusions. For our beginnings are informed by the lessons we have learned and are enhanced by the inspirations we have gleaned from the magic of moments passed.

Indeed, as the holidays slip into the past and the long weeks of winter stretch out before us, we haven’t a moment to waste. We must harness the majesty and sanctity of the holidays to the fullness of the days to come. Let us begin at the beginning and let us begin at present; we cannot begin soon enough.

  1. Down time is important too; it helps to refresh and rejuvenate a tired soul. But there is a time for everything. We must schedule our down time wisely so that it does not impact our energies negatively. Scheduling down time for the moment of conclusion is a waste of the surge in momentum that conclusions typically bring.
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