So another year ends as another book ends. As
this year of 2004 comes to a close, we conclude the book
To read today’s news buy
yourself a newspaper. To read the news of history – the eternal story of the
human struggle – read Genesis.
Yes, two parallel narratives
play themselves out in our lives at all times: The story of our outer lives
and the story of our inner lives. Many of us are quite aware about the events
happening around us. But what about the story of what is happening
The biggest story of all
is your story – the story of your life. It is the story of our
mission – our raison d’etre.
And this story is told
in the Torah chapters, particularly those read this time of the year.
The mystics explain that
the book of Genesis is as its name implies: A seed that contains all the fruit
that will one day grow from it. The story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with
all its details is like a blueprint that encapsulates in microcosm all the
events that would take place in history, both personally and globally.
As discussed in previous articles – in our Mission
Statement series – the Torah chapters from the
beginning of Genesis outline the story of our life’s mission:
The mission begins (Bereishit). The mission is revitalized,
with the cleansing of the world following mans’ great
fall (Noach). The mission is embraced and begins to be realized
with the first step being the need to transcend our own
subjectivity (Lech Lecho). To embrace the mission we need
In the next chapter (Chayei Sarah) stage one of the mission
concludes with the passing of Sarah and then Abraham –
the first pioneers who discovered the mission of the human
race. This is then followed by stage two, the life of Isaac
and Rebecca (Toldot). Followed by stage three – the
story of Jacob and his journey and his battles with Laban
(Vayeitzei, and Vayishlach). The selling of Joseph by his
brothers captures the struggle of faith
and reason (Vayeishev, Miketz, Vayigash).
And now we come to the
conclusion of the book of Genesis (Vayechi), which relates in detail the end
of Jacob’s life on earth, as well as of his children, the twelve tribes.
The mystics teach us that
the characters in Torah are archetypes of different traits that we all carry
within ourselves. Abraham embodies Chesed, loving-kindness. His life is one
of enduring generosity. Isaac personifies Gevurah, awe and discipline. Jacob
incarnates Tiferet, beauty and compassion.
Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet
are the three central forces and building blocks of all existence. Every aspect
of life is comprised of a right, left and center. The entire body is structured
in three columns: The right side (right arm and leg), the left side (left
arm and leg) and the center – the spine, which creates balance.
First we learn of Abraham’s journey – which reflects the journey of the Abraham
within each of us. Next, comes the discretion of Gevurah.
Once love and discipline are in place, we can then complete
the structure, with Jacob’s Tiferet – the critical balancing
spine that carries the entire infrastructure. See a previous
for more elaboration.
As the book of Genesis
ends we have in sum the essential building blocks and tools to discover our
mission in life and face all our life challenges.
You can say that Genesis
is the formative stage of life, when we are educated, trained and equipped
with the tools we will need to face the real world.
Once we are armed with
this powerful arsenal, we then enter the next stage in the book of Exodus.
We enter a harsh world that initially enslaves us by the inherent constraints
(Mitzrayim) of material existence. We have to struggle to find our way and
to maintain our equilibrium.
But we don’t come defenseless.
We are given all the resources we need to “make it.” And not merely to survive
or manage, but to thrive – to flourish and blossom, and achieve greatness.
To do so however requires
us to become familiar with our inner story.
Perhaps we need to give
equal time to our souls as we do to our bodies. Of course we learn many things
from the news around us, including things about our inner lives. Sports and
entertainment are a big part of people’s lives today. But we also can often
get caught up in the superficiality of events around us. Sometimes we also
begin to project our lives through the lives of others – Hollywood and rock
stars, other celebrities and even comic book heroes.
So next time you have
an inclination to read the daily paper, watch the news or see a movie about
other people’s lives, perhaps try opening up the story of your own life and
The book of Genesis ends
as the year ends. But our book just begins. What will your story
be? It’s up to you.