Are Beginnings & Endings The Same? A Simchat Torah Tale

are beginnings and endings are really the same? can emotions provide the answer?

the simchat torah holiday celebrates the ending and the beginning of the annual reading the torah.

the physical torah scroll, not its words, perhaps answers some of our inquiry.

the scroll or parchment made of animal skin is connected to two wooden holders that are called “eitz hayim.” over the course of the year, the scroll is moved or rolled forward. eventually, most of the parchment is placed upon one side. at that point, one holder literally has the entire weight of the torah.

during the torah reading service, there is a part called the hagbah. at the end of the reading, the torah is raised up high and the section of the torah read is shown to the congregation. the person performing the hadbah had one hand on each of the respective holders. at the end of the annual torah reading, as most of the scroll is on one holder, the task is difficult. with the great imbalance, the person lifting struggles to maintain balance and hold it steady. the congregation emotionally shares in this struggle. any visible strain by the lifting is appreciated. there is concern. no one wants to see the torah to drop to the ground. with this event, the service takes the feel of a roller coaster ride. a collective anxiety is present for that short moment.

when the torah is begun anew with the epic “in the beginning” or “breshit barah elohim,” the torah service is again confronted with the hagbah that has a serious imbalance problem. the weight is now on the future readings rather that the past. when the torah is lifted for hagbah again, the same anxiety and concern is present. it is the same imbalance.

thus, with both beginnings and ends, we suffer with imbalance and anxiety. births, graduations, weddings, and retirements are events are cause for celebration. perhaps, we celebrations are to cover up for the imbalance and anxiety felt during these moments. there is uncertainty. the past has concluded and that story is over. a new and unknown story will proceed.

one may ask, if the torah is merely going to be re-read over the next year, why should there be any imbalance or anxiety. after all, we know the story. we know where it will go. one answer is that, while the story remains the same, we don’t. our lives and our life challenges have changed. with this, our perspectives have changed. thus, we are reading the text through a new pair of lenses. we can see new and different things with reach reading. with the end and the new journey, the conclusion of reading the torah, the congregation says “hazak, hazak, ve-nithazek”, “be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened.”  is this need to be strong arise from the fact that we experience anxiety and imbalance when we approach beginnings and endings?

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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