Ending and Beginning: Threads of Torah
It is somewhat surprising that it took me almost 20 years in the rabbinate to do it. But I am glad that I did. I did a comparison of the final chapters of Torah, V’zot Habracha and the opening chapters of Torah, B’reishit. I wondered, what might they have in common? What emerged for me was an impressive and beautiful series of threads and themes that help us see Torah as a continuous cycle.
Tonight, we celebrate Simchat Torah, the completion of the annual Torah reading cycle and begin reading it again. Tonight, the words of Ben Bag Bag, from Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) 5:22 ring truer than ever for me. He taught: “Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it. Reflect on it and grow old and gray with it. Don’t turn from it, for nothing is better than it.”
Here are just some of the parallels I found:
|Giving of blessings||Moses blesses the each of the Tribes.
|God blesses the work of creation and the Sabbath.|
|Strength, fertility||Moses blesses the each of the tribes, bestowing upon them abundance, strength to overcome challenges and future generations to inhabit the land.
|“Be fruitful and multiply” is the very first commandment in the Torah.|
|Completion of a task||V’zot Habracha is Moses’ final moments, the time in which he completes his task of bringing the Israelites to the Promised Land
|“And God saw that it was good.” At the end of each day God reflects upon God’s work, declaring it completed and good.|
|Lifecycle moments||We read about the death or Moses, as well as witness the birth of the nation as they make a final approach into the Promised Land.
|We read about the creation of the universe and the birth of humanity.|
|Boundaries of the land||We learn the boundaries of the Promised Land through Moses’ blessings and his viewing it from atop Mt. Nebo
|We learn the location and boundaries of the Garden of Eden.|
|Helpmates/partners||Moses and God have been partners in the process of bringing the Israelites out of slavery, through 40 years in the desert and to the Promised Land.
|God creates humanity as God’s partner in completing creation. And God creates man and woman has helpmates to each other.|
|Disobedience & consequences||Moses finally confronts the consequences of his previous disobedience and is prohibited from entering the Promised Land.
|Adam and Eve face the consequences of eating of the fruit of the Tree and are expelled from the Garden of Eden.|
|Vision/Seeing||God grants Moses the ability to see the full expanse of the Promised Land from atop Mt Nebo, a feat which is humanly impossible.
|Upon eating of the fruit of the Tree Adam and Eve’s eyes are opened and they see their nakedness.|
|God “doing” for humans||God buries Moses.
|God clothes Adam and Eve.|
So, tonight as we complete the Torah reading cycle, I know that really, the story is not over. The end brings us back to the beginning. We turn it again to retell, to learn, and to uncover more of its wondrous teachings.