MaNishma with Rabbi Arnold Goodman

Parshat Bereshit 5783
To End–To Begin

By Rabbi Arnold Goodman Senior Rabbinic Scholar

On Simchat Torah we conclude the weekly cycle of Torah readings. The title of this last parsha, V'Zot HaBracha (this is the blessing) is counterintuitive. While it begins with Moses' blessing of the tribes of Israel, it concludes with his ascent to Mount Nebo from where, prior to his death he would but get a glimpse of the Promised Land. The Torah is clear that Moses was frustrated that God denied his wish to be the one to lead the Children of Israel into the Land.

There are two important lessons from the account of his death. Moses was denied his wish to cross over the Jordan, but his life was filled with many accomplishments. He is eulogized as the prophet who could never be replicated, yet he died with an unrealized dream. This, alas, is the fate of all mortals, whose lives whether short or long, depart leaving behind undone tasks. The following generation is then challenged to carry on the work of its predecessor.

Moses departs from the scene, but his mission is continued by his successor, Joshua. While not a Moses, he was nonetheless charged to lead the people into the Land. Thus even as we read the ending of Moses leadership, we are immediately reminded that it was followed by the beginning of Joshua's. There is a blessing that the ending of one phase or stage of life is followed by the beginning of another.

Many changes are subtle, and we become aware of transformations only after they have been completed. It's hard to mark the moment when the child becomes a teenager and then an adult. The aging process is likewise subtle, but given longevity there will be changes in our appearance and activities

There are, however, changes that are marked with clear endings and easily noted new beginnings. Two individuals who come under the chuppa (marital canopy) are simply two separate people. The rituals and prayers that follow do transform them into a couple, and from that moment on they are identified as husband and wife, spouses to one another.

Bar/t Mitzvah is often hailed as becoming a Jewish adult. The ceremony hardly transforms a 13-year-old into an adult, physically or emotionally. Yet by reaching this age, there has been a sharp change in this 13-year-old who is now invested with a lifetime responsibility to fulfill the mitzvot and commandments Even as one aspect of his/her life ends, there is the blessing of a new beginning that deserves not only recognition but also celebration.

For each of us the past year can obviously neither be re-experienced nor re-lived. The past is just that – the past. There is before us, however, the blessing of the inherent possibilities and potentials of new beginnings. While acutely aware of the past year's failures and unfulfilled expectations, there is the anticipation that in the days ahead we will be blessed with the opportunity to build on our past and create a significant and fulfilling present with its potential for a glorious future..

As human beings we are blessed that we can celebrate the conclusion of one phase in our lives with the prospect of going forward to a new one with its dreams of achievements.

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach, a Shabbatt of peace and blessing.