I will be in Winnipeg for the reading of Bereshit – a very special beginning. Rabbi Allan Finkel, who was present for my installation as rabbi of Kolot Mayim, will be installed as rabbi of Winnipeg’s Temple Shalom. I will be staying with family friends – which is good as many of the hotels are being set aside for people who have been displaced from their housing due to the recent very early and very heavy snowfalls in Manitoba.
We begin to read Bereshit immediately as we end our reading of Devarim – not for a moment do we not want to find ourselves within the pages of Torah. We are never finished. I think of this when I am reading other books. Sometimes I slow down my reading, because I don’t want the story to end, I don’t want to run out of pages to turn. I will often re-read favourite books, but even as I know what will happen next, I may encounter a similar reluctance to encounter The End. Yet, I don’t think I have often immediately turned to the beginning of the book to begin re-reading it. So why this distinction?
We read in Pirkei Avot: Ben Bag Bag would say: Turn it and turn it again, for all is in it; see through it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for there is nothing that works better than it. – Avos 5, 24
I love that turn of phrase grow old and worn (grey) in it – I am grey, and growing older, if not old! And each time I turn a page I am revived with the wisdom, the taut perspicacity of phrasing, the sheer delight in finding phrasing I think I have never read before. One of the joys of re-reading is realizing that first, or second or third reading never engenders boredom – if anything, for me, it deepens my utter sense of awe about the utter magnitude of Torah.
So, even as we are no longer in Bamidbar, the Wildness, the Wilderness, we still wander, many of us. We all experience beginnings within beginnings, we all live in creation and exile at once. We all are named, our names, Shemot, guiding us forward. And as we age, we think about those who will follow us – what life lessons can we leave to them? What have we learned? What principles guide our actions every day?
Torah is our life. Every morning as we awaken, a new page of life lies before us. What a gift. May we all grow worn and grey with it.