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new beginnings

Friday, 21 October, 2022 - 3:32 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

On Simchat Torah – just three days ago, the final portion of the Torah was read in Synagogues around the world. Tomorrow, we begin to read the Torah again from the very beginning.

Thus, this Shabbat is called Shabbat Bereshit – the Shabbat that we begin to read the portion of Bereshit.

Beginning the Torah again, brings with it the wonderful experience of relearning the same material that you have read last year, but seeing it with added depth.

A sixth-grade teacher was once sharing how much they loved their job. Someone asked him incredulously, ‘how do you teach the same Talmudic tractate to your sixth graders year after year, don’t you get bored?’

To which the teacher answered ‘I don’t teach the Talmud, I teach the students. The students change every year’.

True, we are reading the same words and the same stories. But WE are not the same.

Every day we grow in our knowledge and maturity and when we come to the same verses from the perspective of our accumulated knowledge and experience, we now have a deeper and even newfound appreciation and depth of understanding of the text.

The Torah being the ‘wisdom of G-d’ is unlimited in its depth and content, on can constantly delve into it and reach new vistas of understanding.

Amazingly, notwithstanding the fact that the words of the Torah are more than three thousand years old, we constantly find contemporary messages of G-dly inspiration and direction in those hallowed words.

The Torah is as relevant to us today as it was when it was given. And it is a great joy to start again.

And with the start of the Torah comes the opportunity to make a ‘clean start’ to our year.

Thus the Rebbe would oft repeat that on the Shabbat of Bereshit – the first Shabbat of the year – there are special opportunities available to us and that the way you ‘start things off’, that’s the way things will go for the duration of the year.

That would be a very good reason to take extra effort in doing things as properly as possible this Shabbat.

Now is also the best time to jump onto the bandwagon and start learning the weekly Torah portion – the Parshat Hashavua.

Besides for enhancing your own Torah knowledge by embarking on this study, you will be joining hundreds of thousands of other Jews who are all focusing and studying on the same subject at the very same time.

Essentially you will be uniting with the entire Jewish people via this study. Of course that would be a great thing to do especially in this special year of “ Hakhel ”.

With blessings for a great ‘beginning’ this Shabbat,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS here is something new that I learned this year about the Cain & Abel story .

Now it came to pass at the end of days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord.

And Abel he too brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering.

But to Cain and to his offering He did not turn, and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell.

Two brothers, each of them brought an offering to G-d. To one, G-d turned. To the other G-d ignored.

What was going on here. And what can we learn from it?

According to the Midrash, Cain brought flax seeds as his offering. It was the finest species of vegetation as per the norms of that time. It was considered a superior species. However, he brought flax seeds of inferior quality.

Abel, brought animals as a sacrifice. Actually, he didn’t bring the most impressive animal sacrifice possible. He brought sheep. Not cattle, which would have been a more superior species.

However, Abel brought the fattest of his flocks.

To sum it up:

Cain brought the best species but brought inferior quality within that species.

Abel didn’t bring the biggest kind of animals. He brough sheep not cattle. But he did bring the choice sheep of his flocks.

What was the result?

G-d turned to Abel’s sacrifice.

And rejected Cain’s.

The lesson is foundational.

It’s not about bringing the most superior species.

You may not even be in possession of the superior species.

But that is fine. Because G-d doesn’t expect you to bring what you don’t have.

We need to bring to G-d, the best of what we DO have.

It’s an important lesson to remember.

From both angles.

First of all, it removes the angst of comparing your gift to G-d with someone else’s.

And secondly, it reminds us to put forth the effort to give the best of what we have to G-d.

Why is it so important that the choicest portion go to G-d?

Think about this analogy.

You bring a guest to stay in your home. There is a guest suite and a master bedroom.

Where do you host your guest?

Most probably in your guest suite.

The master bedroom is nicer, but that is for the ‘master’. You as the owner ‘deserve’ the sleep in the master bedroom.

By allocating the ‘first’ and ‘choicest’ to G-d, you are reminding yourself that the world and all that is therein, is really HIS. He is the master. You are the guest.

Once you have proclaimed that all is His by dedicating the ‘first’ to Him, you can partake of His world with His blessing and permission.

So next time you give something to G-d, give your best.

Click here for a more in-depth rendition of the above lessons.

Mazel Tov for our starting of the new cycle of Torah reading!

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