The Original Beginner's Mind
Are there any real beginnings and ends? A Talmudic quote "Their beginning is wedged in their end" hints at the circular nature of things, despite our desire for order with grand beginnings, and neat endings that can be shut and sealed.
This past Tuesday we completed the reading of the Torah and at the same service, began from Bereishis-Genesis again. This ritual along with the hakafot which are circular dances around the Bimah celebrating the Torah are physical manifestations of the beginning wedged in the end. Let's explore a little deeper.
The circle of Torah is a spiral, we immediately start over from the beginning because there are always new insights and levels of Torah that are waiting for us at the spiral's next helix. Not only is Torah G-d's infinite wisdom with a depth and width so expansive that after 3000 years we are only scratching the surface, but we are also always changing and growing as humans. We study Bereishis in 5783 as different people that we were in 5782.
The last verses of the Torah tell us of Moshe's death and then list his praises. The final words of the Torah allude to his breaking of the Tablets "Before the eyes of all of Israel". With this the Torah concludes and then we immediately start "In the beginning G-d created...". Talk about anti climatic! The breaking of the Tablets is hardly a nice neat ending and definitely not the fairytale happily ever after we have come to expect in most modern literature.
The Golden Calf is the archetype for all mess ups and the breaking of the tablets symbolic of the brokenness that initiates the path to Teshuva-return. We will all mess up, over and over again. We will all experience brokenness at many points over the course of our lives. The beauty of Torah teaches us that the breaking point is an ending only in its making space for a new beginning. We come to that new beginning with the shards of who we were, just like the broken tablets traveled through the desert in the Holy Ark and eventually lived in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, always a part of our story.
It also teaches us another important lesson. Part of trying to gain new insight and understanding of new ideas is letting old ones shatter. The Torah concludes with the breaking of the tablets to hint to us that there must be a willingness to allow old ideas to splinter and break in order to absorb new ones. The shards stay with us, enabling us to have new perspective, insight and empathy as we begin from the beginning of creation again.