Before reading Bereshit (in the beginning) this week, the Torah scroll has to be rolled all the way from one end back to the other. It takes strong wrists and a careful eye to reset the Torah scroll back to its beginning. Part of the rolling experience is noticing the text as the parchment slides past. A year of stories unspools and lessons learned are recalled. This example of mindfully scrolling back the Torah offers a valuable lesson.
Our tradition affirms both our need to examine our past and commit to improving ourselves. The quality of our existence is static and remains so if we fail to do the preparatory work. We start the Jewish year reviewing our past as a prelude to teshuvah. We notice our failures in a commitment to improve. We can’t productively scroll forward unless we harvest lessons from the lives we’ve led. Ultimately, recalling the past can make the next year better than the last.
Improving your life is easier when you begin with the knowledge you have acquired. Applied properly, the lessons learned help assure you become a better person than you have been. Add to that a sense of wonder, a longing for change and a feeling of hope. You’ll be on a journey of growth and improvement.
We always have an opportunity to start again. The Jewish calendar reminds us to do so. And the cycle of Torah reading, even in the physical act of rolling the scroll, instructs us in a methodology of renewing ourselves. Each beginning informs the next.
Our tradition asks that we read the entire Torah each year. While the words of the Torah never change, there are new meanings waiting to be discovered. With each reading new insights can be unwrapped and new inspiration unfurled. Perhaps the same is true for us each year; we can improve our lives with opportunities for increased wisdom and expanding optimism. That’s the gift of a new beginning, an opportunity for growth and improvement. It just takes a bit of willingness to scroll back through what has taken place to successfully begin again.
Evan J. Krame