This week, we begin a new book of Torah, Devarim, (Deuteromony) in our cycle of Torah readings. When we leave one book to begin another, our tradition creates a ritual of transition. “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik” is said at the end of one book – “Be strong, be strong, and thus we will be strengthened,” and there is even a big white space in the Torah as we proceed to the next. That space reminds us to pause and take a breath before we start something new. For me, the transition is very concrete. I must pull out new volumes of books for Torah study, as the ones I use have separate volumes for each book of Torah. This physical act is a good reminder that I’m starting something new.
We are blessed to start over multiple times throughout the year, and for those “beginnings” to be foundational to our yearly cycle. The Baal Shem Tov says that “… the world is new to us every morning – this is the Holy One’s gift and every person should believe they are reborn each day.” Can you imagine how differently we would approach time if we saw each day as something entirely new from the day before, as if we were entirely new than the day before?
I think it is healthy and helpful to pay attention to the beginnings that already exist and even more so, actively create opportunities to start new things. We’ve had too many endings lately, and personally, I need some fresh perspective. We can easily notice and appreciate the beginnings around us: the start of every season brings not only new weather, but also new scenery. Every time there’s a vegetable growing in Jonathan’s garden, I get excited. And we can make beginnings happen: plan a new vacation; start a new new class or lecture series; binge a new tv show or listen to a new podcast – all of these and more can lift us with inspiration and sparks of energy.
In a time when many of us have lower levels of energy, I invite you to either look for newness in your life, the “beginnings” that already exist. Or, even better, choose to start something new. Not something that feels like it’s going to take work and deplete your energy, but something that will do the opposite: bring joy and increase energy.
Just like when we open the pages of a new book of Torah or turn the Torah scroll to that space between the books, we pause to catch our breath with anticipation. What awaits us? Something unknown calls to us, and whatever it is, we know it will be a new experience. A fresh start, a beginning, a “new-ness” is worthy of gratitude.