Yom Shabbat, 29 Heshvan 5778
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Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah--Simchat Torah/B'reishit

Most weeks, I write a commentary on the Torah portion assigned to the week or the holiday. This weekend, though, I need to change gears; if only for one week. This Shabbat, we also celebrate the holiday of Simchat Torah (Celebrating the Torah). We both complete the reading of the Torah cycle and commence the cycle over again – at the same time. This way, we never “finish” reading the Torah. We dance with the scrolls. We celebrate the blessing of not only completing a cycle but being able to start a new one. Our joy stems both from the blessing of all that we learned the previous year and also from the expectation that life’s twists and turns will cause a new light to emanate from the ancient texts. We cannot know what the future holds, but we do know that Torah is flexible and magical enough to prompt relevant conversation between us, no matter the circumstance. Our problem has often been that we just refuse to engage. In our failure to engage we dismiss the whole process as Tom Foolery.Most weeks, I write a commentary on the Torah portion assigned to the week or the holiday. This weekend, though, I need to change gears; if only for one week. This Shabbat, we also celebrate the holiday of Simchat Torah (Celebrating the Torah). We both complete the reading of the Torah cycle and commence the cycle over again – at the same time. This way, we never “finish” reading the Torah. We dance with the scrolls. We celebrate the blessing of not only completing a cycle but being able to start a new one. Our joy stems both from the blessing of all that we learned the previous year and also from the expectation that life’s twists and turns will cause a new light to emanate from the ancient texts. We cannot know what the future holds, but we do know that Torah is flexible and magical enough to prompt relevant conversation between us, no matter the circumstance. Our problem has often been that we just refuse to engage. In our failure to engage we dismiss the whole process as Tom Foolery.

That said, I stand in awe of the Biblical text because of its potential to engage readers in many generations in the power of growth. I learned, early on, that one cannot expect any return form an empty investment. When someone tells me that they get nothing from services, I always ask, “What did you bring with you?” I get a quizzical stare and then continue, “Will you make money in the market if you don’t invest? Do you get eggs in the store without bringing money for the exchange?” Expecting to get something of value from zero investment is fruitless. Thinking that one can expect to take, offering nothing in return is emotionally and spiritually dishonest. In fact, when we take something of value and offer nothing, it is tantamount to theft. Yet, we operate on this plane every day. We expect and accept things from each other without thought. One can argue that one pays taxes, so the teachers, police officers, garbage collectors, and officials have to show up and do their jobs, but in so many cases, these people show up not only to perform the tasks of their jobs but to also offer the gifts of their humanity. We are not paying for their humanity; they offer that from their hearts.

I was speaking with my township’s Chief of Police the other day. I told him that one big reason I oppose weapons is that I know if we have an active shooter situation, he will be the one responding (not me). I cherish him and cannot think of putting him at risk. I need him to do his job, but not at the cost of his life. My prayer is we invest in each other’s well being, he and I.

So, this Simchat Torah, I pray for us to open our hearts and our arms. As we return to the beginning of the Torah cycle, I want us to return to the beginning of our thought processes about how we care for and about each other. We will read of the spiritual origins of the world. Let’s bring the “new” back into our daily life choices. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.