Shabbat Parashat Bereishit Shabbat Machar Chodesh Shabbat Mevarekhim HaChodesh Live and Learn!

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join us this Friday night and Shabbat morning as we celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Zachary Busch. Mazal Tov to Zachary and to his entire family!

Having just completed the annual reading of the Five Books of Moses on Simchat Torah, we now begin anew reading the Creation story in the Book of Genesis.

I am always excited to begin reading the Torah anew each year at this time. I always anticipate learning something that I never knew before – noticing something that had previously eluded me when I read the Torah – and growing in understanding and, hopefully, in wisdom.

In “real life” when I encounter a surprising phenomenon, I find myself saying: “Live and Learn!”

This year, as I opened the first Torah portion of the new year, Bereishit, Genesis, I had that same feeling of “Live and Learn!”

How so?

Did you ever notice that the two trees that are mentioned in the story of the Garden of Eden are the Tree of Life (as is: “Live”), and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (as in “Learn”)? Did you ever connect the Garden of Eden story with the phrase: “Live and Learn!”?

I must admit that I did not.

And yet, this year, I noticed that the Creation story sets the stage for our two most existential challenges as human beings. We are challenged to deal our mortality – with the transient nature of our life on earth. And, we are challenged with the fact that our ability to learn about our selves and about the world around us is limited. Our knowledge is limited.

Each one of the two trees in the Garden of Eden represents one of the two most basic existential challenges of our human lives: The challenge of facing our mortality, and the challenge of facing the limits of our ability to know as much as we would like to know.

Today, as we face the future amid the current pandemic that surrounds us, we are confronted more starkly with both of these challenges. What do we do with our limited lives? And, what do we do with our limited knowledge? And, how can we make the most of both?

The Torah comes to offer us a way forward as human beings living in the “real world” into which we have been placed. The Torah offers us a path of Mitzvoth, a plan of action, that gives meaning and purpose to our lives, even as we acknowledge the limitations of our physical and intellectual capabilities.

The Torah assures us that, even though we are “mere mortals”, having encountered the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, we can still walk in ways of holiness. We can still achieve greatness. We can still “Live and Learn!”

Wishing us all many new beginnings, many new insights, and many new joyous occasions.

This Shabbat we will recite the blessing for the new Jewish month of MarCheshvan. Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan will be on Saturday night, Sunday and Monday of this coming week. May it be a month of healing, of comfort and of blessing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror