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Bereishis: Renewal, Not Just Survival

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Time is like a spiral. Every year on Shabbos Bereishis the world is renewed (Shabbos Bereishis is the first Shabbos after the Holidays when we begin to read the Torah anew).

Indeed, the Baal Shem Tov elucidates the concept of perpetual creation. Existence has no validity on its own and must be renewed each moment. Like the words that stream from your mouth, the universe and all its elements is G-d speaking to us, it is a form of energy that needs constant sustenance.

Among the many far reaching implications of this profound philosophy is the hope that it offers us: Life is not a monotonous continuum that just keeps ‘rolling along.’ At the surface level it may appear that there is no movement, but brewing beneath the surface is vitality that is being renewed each moment from its source. At any given moment we can access this inner energy and renew our lives.

We are not just like a dead pool of water cut off from its source; we have the power to access this dynamic life force within.

We have a choice: We either succumb and resign ourselves to the mortal forces of nature that cause us to age and erode; or we tap into the inner vivacity of the marrow that flows like a stream through the cosmic arteries of existence.

This is the compounding challenge facing us today, in the aftermath of September 11th. When things are ‘going well,’ when life seems to be regular, we can convince ourselves that we do not need to access the perpetual renewal of “Bereishis boro Elokim – In the beginning G-d created.” On the contrary, one can even argue that there is comfort in the ‘boring’ consistency of life. Now that illusion cannot be perpetuated.

In the wake of the shock of September 11th we can deny the reality that things are not ‘regular’; we can respond to the terror and uncertainty with panic; or we can access deeper reservoirs of strength that provide us with a more profound source of security.

“Bereishis” reminds us and gives us the power to create a new beginning. We dance on Simchat Torah with unbridled joy — joy in recognition of our ability to connect to new sources of energy — and then we use these energies to recreate the world in which we live.

“Bereishis” (literally ‘in the beginning’) contains the word “rosh” (and “reishis”), which means ‘head.’ Like Rosh Hashana and this entire month of Tishrei (the letters of Tishrei can be rearranged into the word “reishis”), “Bereishis” tells us that this is not just the beginning of the new year, but it is like a head – it is the central nervous system that controls the entire body of time. Every moment of this month that concludes with the reading of “Bereishis” is concentrated energy that has the power to affect the entire year ahead, like the head and mind that controls the entire body.

So, renewal today is the source of renewed energy for the entire year.

Two practical suggestions how to implement this in our lives:

1) Every morning, first thing upon awakening, while still lying in bed, say the prayer: Modeh Ani Lefonecho Melech Chai v’Kayom She’he’chozarti Bi Neshmosi b’Chemlo Rabbo Emunosecho. I acknowledge You for returning my soul to me.

Take a moment to concentrate and think about these words and what they mean to you. You have a soul that has been renewed (‘Bereishis’) this morning. Your soul has a mission whose contract has been renewed. This is your personal mission statement — the reason you are here on earth.

This is how you should begin your day. And this is how you should be focusing all your activities throughout the day: Are they fulfilling your soul’s mission?

Before you go to sleep say this prayer: B’yodcho Afkid Ruchi Podeso Oisee A-donoi E-l Emes. I entrust my spirit into Your hand. You will redeem me, Lord, G-d of truth.

Don’t fall asleep with the TV on or with a newspaper on your nose. Read something spiritual; pray; say the above prayer; and allow yourself to fall asleep with nourishment of your soul. Your sleep will then be peaceful and healing. And you will awake with a fresh soul, ready to take on the day.

2) As we begin reading the Torah anew with Bereishis, why not commit to begin reading the weekly Torah portion every week of the year. Besides becoming familiar with the Torah, you will find now more than ever the amazing relevance of the Torah to our times. The ongoing Torah portions — in their blunt depiction of the battle of good and evil, the story of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Esau and the entire subsequent events — all parallel in a most uncanny fashion the unfolding drama following the tragedy of September 11th, and it helps us make some sense of what is going on. Above all, it gives us direction on how to proceed.

In this spirit — and at the request of many of you — we will be bringing you, in this article, and in the ones to come in the following weeks, insights into our current situation and practical suggestions on how we can build security in these uncertain times; sources of permanent security that can be implemented in all aspects of our daily lives.

As always, we also welcome and appreciate any of your suggestions and feedback. If you have any of your own thoughts or have seen relevant articles, please pass them on to us.

May this be a year of renewal. And renewal that comes with joy.

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