15 October 2014
Here are three ways to Make It Yours this week:
- Know the new address of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington: we’ve officially moved to 6101 Executive Blvd, North Bethesda, MD 20852
- Learn with us at ROUTES on Sunday, November 2 at American University
- Support the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes at the 31st Annual ‘Cirque Dreams Themed’ Gala on Tuesday, October 28
The 1991 Billy Crystal movie, “City Slickers,” features the following exchange between characters Mitch Robbins and Ed Furillo:
Mitch: “You remember when we were kids, and we were playing ball, and we hit the ball over the fence out of bounds, and we yelled, DO OVER?”
Ed: [grins, remembering] “Yeah!”
Mitch: “Your life is a do over. You’ve got a clean slate.”
The Days of Awe have drawn to a close. We’ve sought to make peace with ourselves, with others and with G-d. We’ve promised changes, new beginnings. And once again, we’ve been given a “do over.”
Tonight, we begin the celebration of Shemini Atzeret and tomorrow night, Simchat Torah, during which we complete the reading of the Torah and without hesitation, begin all over again. The weekly parashot – the words and stories they contain – are identical, year in and year out. It is we who change. The symbolic illustration for such change is found in the last and first letters of the Torah. The last word in Deuteronomy is Yisrael; the first in Genesis is B’resheet. The last Hebrew letter, lamed, joins with the first letter bet to spell the word lev, Hebrew for “heart”.
Torah study, while intellectually challenging, may not always provide specific guidance in how we are to deal with our everyday challenges. More than likely, however, it touches the heart. We are engaged both emotionally and spiritually each time we study. It is the Hebrew word “lev” that closes the circle of Torah readings on Simchat Torah and it is the heart that draws us closer and guides us. Each time we read a Torah portion, we understand it differently, shaped by our experiences in the past year. Re-reading a book later in life that was assigned in high school provokes an entirely new response, shaped not by the words on the page, but by the accumulated experiences of our hearts.
There are times we all wish for a “do over” – a troublesome thought, a misspoken word, an errant deed. The High Holidays offered us a chance to improve, but in our hearts, we know we’ll be back, asking yet again for forgiveness. The yearly cycle of Torah study is Judaism’s clever reminder to re-read the instruction book.
Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer