Start at the beginning with strength and purpose

  • RabbiChaikinUSE
I always feel very emotional saying farewell to the sukkah at the end of the festival. For a week, we have been sheltered in G-d’s embrace, the flimsy walls and permeable roof symbolic of His protection under all circumstances.
by Rabbi Yossi Chaikin, Oxford Shul | Oct 15, 2020

Now it’s time to come out and face the world. It also means that the season of holidays is drawing to a close. For almost a month we have been hopping from festival to festival, from fast to fast. Now it’s back to the day to day grind without the spiritual injection associated with this month of Tishrei.

This past Shabbat afternoon, as Shemini Atzeret was drawing to a close and Simchat Torah about to begin, I felt this more than ever. There was a certain finality in leaving the sukkah, in facing the real world again. The frenetic pace of the past few weeks took us all away from the real world. It was about how to celebrate high holidays in these most unusual times; whether to attend synagogue or to stay home; if and how to host guests in a sukkah; how to dance on Simchat Torah without being allowed to sing. We focused on the special observances of special day after special day, and were preoccupied with how this could best be done in current circumstances. It felt good to be in Hashem’s embrace.

Now, it’s out into the real world. Understandably, we may be slightly apprehensive about facing this world post the holiday season. For six months, we have grown accustomed to our actions being dictated by guidelines; for the past month, we were also spiritually spoon-fed and our deeds directed by rules and ritual.

Now we’re on our own. The government has relaxed lockdown regulations, leaving our health and that of our communities in our hands and up to our common sense. Likewise, on the religious front, we’re alone, needing to nurture our relationship with G-d on our own steam.

This is the energy of the Shabbat we are now facing: Shabbat Bereishit (in the beginning). It’s known by that name because we start the new cycle of Torah readings with Genesis Chapter 1. But it’s also a new spiritual beginning for each of us as we implement the gains of previous weeks into our daily life and set ourselves on the correct religious path ahead.

Buoyed by the energy of Tishrei and its festivals, let’s face the year ahead with the many uncertainties it brings. Let’s begin with a new bereishit. We all know how important beginnings are, and how a good start affects the road ahead.

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