Our trip around the sun has come full course, and here we are at the threshold again. Beginnings and endings. We’re ending the book of Deuteronomy, will be starting Genesis soon. We’re ending 5778, starting 5779.
As we get to the end of the year, we are swamped with preparations for the New Year – cooking, cleaning, reflecting, connecting. But there is actually a Torah portion this Shabbat, and it has some of my most favorite texts: Surely this instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us, and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. (Deut 30:11-14)
I hope, if nothing else, as you read these Shabbat musings around the course of the year, you realize that Torah is not so far away, that it’s indeed close to you, in your mouth and heart. Its relevance is astounding some weeks. It takes tangling and wrangling, study and thought, but it’s not too hard, it’s not too distant. It’s right there for us all.
Think about that – no one is supposed to go to the heavens or across the seas and get the Torah for us. We don’t hand that over to someone else. It’s ours. It’s in our hands, in our eyes, our mouths and heart. We speak its truths when we speak out for the vulnerable in our communities. It’s in our hearts as we feel for the stranger in our midst. It’s in our minds as we turn our attention/intention to Shabbat in whatever way makes it holy and separate. It’s in our hands, as we work to make this a better world.
Next month, we begin Bereshit/Genesis again. We read the description of a new world created, new creatures, including the human. We are created with minds, heads, hearts, and mouths. As we read these familiar lines, remember back to these past few weeks, when Moses taught verse after verse about creating a just and righteous society. Each day, with Torah in our mouths and hearts, we can re-create what Genesis describes.
I wish you all who read and share these thoughts a year of joy, health, triumph over challenges, acknowledgement of blessings, gatherings full of loving faces, bounty in the dishes, and sweet memories of those no longer at the table.
Shana Tovah, 5779.