Shabbat Shalom: Between the End and the Beginning
Director of Teen Emissaries and Education
This week, we find ourselves at the end of the Torah cycle as we read the very last parsha, V’zot Hab’rachah on the holiday of Simchat Torah. In this portion, Moses blesses the Israelites tribe by tribe and ascends to Mt. Nebo where he is able to view the whole Promised Land before he dies on the mountain. The Israelites mourn his death for 30 days and Joshua assumes leadership of the people as they start their new life in their new land.
At the end of the Torah scroll, the words appear dark and bold and as the last word is read and we see the white space that follows. There is a stark contrast between the black ink calligraphy and the smooth white parchment. Often, the next step is to begin the process of re-rolling the scroll back to the beginning and start the cycle again with Bereshit, the creation of the world. But what if we were to pause and look at what is in between the end and the beginning, the empty space? We close the Torah with Moses blessing the tribes and wonder what would happen if we stopped and really thought about what blessings we are carrying from the white space and back to the bold letters. It is another opportunity during this season of reflection, to sit with the breaks that we are given by our traditions and rituals. What are we hoping to leave behind at the conclusion and what do we want to ensure we carry forward as we start fresh?
This Shabbat, we will also be celebrating Shemini Atzeret, the 8th day of the festival of Sukkot. There are many different answers on the meaning of this last day and if it is part of Sukkot or should be observed as its own holiday. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a 19th-century orthodox rabbi from Germany, describes this day as a time “to gather” or “store up.” He believed we need to store up the sentiments of gratitude and devotion acquired throughout the fall holiday season and hold onto them as it will be another two months before we have another holiday to celebrate.
It seems that both the Torah and holiday cycles are sending us the same message. Take time to reflect, be grateful, appreciate the time we have shared with family and community these past weeks and allow those feelings to inspire you and carry you through this new year.
Please email Michelle Ruby Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.