A new cycle of Torah- here we go! We re-wrap the giant scroll to start it all over again, with Genesis. The first chapter of the first book of the Torah will have been read this Shabbat all over the world.  That, in and of itself, is pretty wild. Why do we read and re-read the same book year after year? Do you have a book that you turn to time & time again? If so, why do you do that? I would suggest, perhaps, that it’s for two reasons. First, it’s a cozy comfort. When you read the words that you know so well, there’s a deep-dish macaroni level of comfort to be found there. Second, it’s refreshing. It’s not because the words in the story have changed (in fact they haven’t changed at all), but it’s because you’ve changed. You are not the same person you were in 5781 that you are in 5782.  You are FOR SURE not the person you were back in 2019- remember that time?!? It’s looking at those marks on the doorpost of your childhood home that marked your height growth through the years.  While it may be a mix of bitter and sweet (which is the most Jewish thing ever), it’s a comfort and it’s a refresh, at the same time. How brilliant. Perhaps you’d like to think about starting to read a chapter of Genesis each week on your own. And if you’re thinking you’d like to take this challenge on in a group, The Soul Center is in the process of putting together a group of “first time readers” to do this together, so stay tuned for that.

And the word we start with is “beresheet”, which is an awesome Hebrew one-word phrase that in English is translated as “in the beginning”.  In the beginning. What’s your beginning? A lot of things feel like an ending at this time of year- the weather chills, the sun sets earlier. How might we think of this time as the beginning of a beautiful unfolding of self? What can we begin now? What is available to us to access now?

I love that the Torah starts with the letter “bet”, which is the second letter of the alphabet. What happened to Aleph? Why not start the Torah with the first letter of the alphabet? There are several suggestions from the rabbis as to why this is, but here’s the one I like the best.  Grammatically, the aleph doesn’t make an “A” sound, unless there’s a vowel attached to it. It’s basically a silent letter. I like to think maybe there is an aleph there, hovering in the background just before the “b” of the bet letter. It’s like a breath or a pause. Let’s take a breath together, and then jump in.

Soulfully yours,

Rachel Siegal

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