Rabbi Yair D. Robinson
Parashat Bereshit: Genesis 1:1 Plaut p. 19
It’s nice to be back to ‘just’ celebrating Shabbat. You’ve probably seen the meme—the internet cartoon—that takes cover to the old Barenstein Bears children’s book “Too Much Birthday”, with the family of bears all looking despondent in the midst of chaos, and transforms it to read “Too Much Yuntiff”. Truly, when we celebrate three-and-a-half major holidays in 21 days, right as school is beginning, the programmatic year is beginning, etc., it can feel like too much.
Even so, all of these front-loaded holidays remind us that our beginnings are important. That they matter. That how we start something is going to affect how we finish it—regardless of the project. Whether it’s something for work, our home, or something we’re working on our inner selves, our deepest selves, how we begin makes a difference. We want to start out at our best, to step off on the right footing, and move toward success.
So then comes the question: why don’t we read the beginning of the Torah for Rosh Hashanah? If this is the beginning of our calendar year as Jews, why do we wait nearly a whole month to open Bereshit, the beginning of the Torah, which is what we’re reading this Shabbat? Because sometimes we get stuck that beginnings can only happen once, or on one kind of occasion, and that to begin again, to restart, can feel impossible. But it isn’t, nor should it be. Because sometimes we don’t get to step off on the right foot, we don’t quite let go of what’s holding us back, and it’s okay to start over. To have a New Beginning.
Our text tells us that God begins in the midst of chaos—tohu va-vohu, and begins through speech—speaking the world into being by starting with light. The sun, moon and stars aren’t created for several more days, so what light is this? The kabbalists will tell us this is the hidden light, God’s light of creation, the light hidden within us, the light that reminds us that any day, any moment could be a new beginning, if we open ourselves up to it, to the possibility of renewal and rejuvenation. We need not wait for Rosh Hashanah, or January 1st, or our birthday, or the first of the month, or any other time to begin. Any day could be day one. Today could be the day we start that new project on the house or start making calls to support our preferred candidate in the election, or begin to volunteer for cause we care about, or learn French or how to play the guitar, or get into therapy, or seek help, doing the inner work to become the person we’ve always wanted to be. Any day we could say, “today I will let the light of the world in and let the light of myself that I’ve hidden away, out.” Is it scary to begin again? Sure, can be. Does it feel funny to start over? Sure can. But we can choose to hold on to the chaos, the tohu vavohu in our lives, or move forward and let it go, letting the light shine in and out.
So, take this as encouragement, as your sign that it’s okay to begin again, to forge a new beginning. You didn’t miss your opportunity. And if you need to start over, that’s okay too. Every day may be the beginning of a new year, a new moment for each of us, if only we open ourselves up to it. Amen.