Tuesday, October 06, 2015

No Time for a Torah High Five

Simchat Torah has ended, with all of the fun and dancing that accompanies it. We said goodbye to the sukkah, we danced with the Torah scrolls and we listened as the congregation finished the entire Torah.

And then we started again.

And herein lies one of the most important moments that I experience every year – and one of the most important lessons to learn in life.

We stand in shul, after having listened for the entire year to parsha after parsha after parsha of the Torah. We’ve done our work. 

We’ve completed all Five Books of the Torah. And as we finish, I think it’s human nature to give a collective and very loud high five. And then to go home for some cake and ice cream. We did it! Yahooo! What an accomplishment!

But this isn’t what we do.

Far from it.

Rather, we roll up those Torah scrolls and turn almost immediately – almost in the same breathe – and start reading from the very beginning of the Torah again. There we are all over again at Beresheit, listening to what Hashem created and in what order he did so.

Wait! You almost want to yell. Hang on. Can’t we celebrate? Can’t we have just one minute to relax? To gloat? To step away from the Torah?

The answer we get back is a resounding NO. Good job, we did it, and now let’s do it all over again.

Why is this such an amazing lesson? Why is this probably one of the greatest lessons that my children learn all year?

There are so many answers to this question.

Moving directly and seamlessly from the end of such a great accomplishment right back to the beginning again shows that we never stop learning. Even when we have accomplished something awesome, there is more to learn. Always.  

And not only do we always have more to learn in life, but we can even learn from the exact same material we just learned.

Life is a spiral rather than a circle or a line and we are always moving.
So even when we accomplish something and we think we’ve got this one in the bag, we can always learn more, even from the material we just finished. It’s not the material, per se, from which we are learning. It’s our interpretation of the material. It’s how we approach it. It’s with whom we select to approach it.

The material is fluid and kinetic in our hands.

So yes, we finished the Five Books of the Torah and we can celebrate and relish in our accomplishment. But darn it, you’re about to hear Beresheit right now – again. 

One of the best lessons to learn here is that you always have the opportunity for improvement and for more chances.

I hope that son #1 learns from this that learning never ends. And that what he's learning in school builds on itself and changes as he changes and grows with the material.

I hope that son #2 realizes, as he practices that basketball shot for the thousandth time, and yet misses it in the game, to simply pick up the ball and practice for the 1001st time, knowing that eventually he'll get it right.

And that when Son #3 draws that not-so-perfect picture that he’s learning on YouTube, that he puts aside the picture and immediately picks up a clear page to start again.

And that when Son #6 falls off of the bike that he’s learning to ride, he’ll get right back on and try it again.

And so on.

These are the lessons to be learned at Simchat Torah. What a glorious message to receive as the new year starts.

We are ready to be better people than we were last year and to work on ourselves each day.

Let’s hope we continue to be given the opportunity to do so and to learn this important lesson.

Shana Tova.

Here’s to a peaceful, productive and magical year ahead.

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