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10.13.2017 Weekly Torah Portion

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:32 pm
by RabbiMark
Late on Thursday evening, the sanctuary eventually returned back to a place of quiet solitude. The music had died down, the circles of dancers had melted away, and our beautiful Torahs were gently returned to the ark. A few hours before, our Simchat Torah celebration - a time of pure, unadulterated joy - had come to a close with frenetic outpouring of song, dance, and communal connection. This conclusion also served as the grand finale of our High Holy Day season, wrapping up a process that we began almost two months ago, with the start of the Hebrew month of Elul on August 21st (coinciding with the eclipse!).

The High Holy Day season is a period of transition, where we divide our time between reflections from the past year, and looking forward towards actively engaging in the upcoming year. This year the festivals and Shabbat merge smoothly into each other. Technically, the actual conclusion of Simchat Torah occurs with the start of tonight’s Shabbat and so the stillness in the sanctuary was but a temporary pause prior to the preparations for tonight’s celebration. The Hebrew calendar is unique in that it serves to disrupt our routine with holidays and festivals seemingly spaced out at irregular intervals, but it also provides us with the reliability of a weekly routine through the ongoing celebration of Shabbat.

Towards the end of the Simchat Torah celebration, it is customary to read the last few verses from the book of Deverarim/Deuteronomy, which are immediately followed by a reading of the very first verses from the beginning of the book of Beginnings - Bereshit/Genesis. Simchat Torah thus provides us with a bridge between the Exodus narrative and the Creation narrative, both of which are fundamental to our Jewish outlook on life.

The Exodus narrative, contained in the final four books of the Torah, starts with an evil, oppressive leader rising up in Egypt to enslave the Israelites and ends with the Israelites on the cusp of entering into a land that will offer them personal and national independence. This narrative serves to inspire and guide many of us in the never-ending process of moving from slavery to freedom. Subsequently, the Creation narrative, contained within the book of Bereshit/Genesis, offers us a glimpse into the awesome degree of creative capacity with which GD endowed humans, his own prized creation. It tells us that to have a connection to GD means being connected to the Creator of Creation, the Ultimate Source of creativity, an understanding which is vital in inspiring us to lead a full and meaningful life.

This week’s Torah portion introduces us to the conception and establishment of Shabbat. GD models Shabbat by ceasing from GD’s creative activities on day seven. Interestingly, Shabbat also provides us with a bridge between the Creation narrative and the Exodus narrative. As Rabbi Heschel shares, “The secret of spiritual living is in the sense for the ultimacy of each moment, for its sacred uniqueness, for its one-and-for-all-ness…” Much like GD choosing to rest after creating the world in six days, Shabbat is a weekly space for us to pause and appreciate moments of sacred uniqueness. Additionally, Rabbi Heschel shares, “The most unnoticed of all miracles is the miracle of t’shuvah. It is not the same as rebirth; it is transformation, creation.” On Shabbat we are instructed to remember the Exodus from Egypt. What better way to remember this transformative process than to engage in it ourselves, through our own t’shuvah work?

Let’s use this Shabbat as an opportunity to be present for our own transformation and contribute to the transformation of the world.

Shabbat Shalom.
Chaplain Adam Siegel