After celebrating the completion of the formal reading of the Torah (Five books of Moses/Old Testament) last week (the Torah is divided in 54 portions, a single typical reading segment is called a "parashah") during the celebration of Simchat Torah (literally meaning celebration of the Torah), the last celebration during the High Holiday season, we begin reading the Torah again from the very beginning this week, as we also cycle again through the Jewish calendar of festivals and observances!
The first portion of the Five Books of Moses is called Bereshit, which literally means "In the beginning." Bereshit details the creation of the elements of Creation (the world/universe) in six consecutive days - dark/light, heavens or sky/earth or ground, land/sea/plants, celestial bodies sun/moon/stars, fish/birds/reptiles, and finally, land animals/human beings. On the seventh day, the Creator, G-d (i.e. HaShem), refrains from creating anything new. From this, we learn to observe the weekly Sabbath/Shabbat on the seventh day, as a regular and important day of rest/hiatus from the rest of the six preceding days of work/creation. Also described in this Torah portion is the creation of Adam and Eve as the first humans, the seductive serpent who tempts Eve and Adam into eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge, and the sibling rivalry which concludes in the murder of Abel at the hands of Cain.
From the beginning of the Torah, we learn among other profound lessons that we as people are to act as intentional, moral, and conscientious agents of Creation (on a smaller yet nonetheless profound scale). Thus, in a sense, responsible and thoughtful people act as an extension of G-d's hand.
As we conclude the High Holiday season and the reading of the Torah, and start the process anew, as a team, we also near the conclusion of some of our efforts for various endeavors, such as recruitment, while continuing to channel our energies in other ways such as the execution of programs and direct support of students. As a staff, we endeavor to create a welcoming, warm, inclusive, and engaging community. We are unified in this mission even as our exact roles differ and overlap. In this sense, we are participating in the ongoing story of creation and enhancement of our world for our fellow Jews, human beings, and for the rest of Creation as well. With this perspective of us as invaluable and critical creators and agents in Creation, let us allow ourselves to approach our work this coming year, 5779, with renewed energy and purpose, free from discouragement from perceived challenges and setbacks, and filled with encouragement, inspiration, and uplift directed towards our involvements, initiatives, team members, and those we serve.
Doni (Doniel Kaye; Hillel at VT 2018-19 Staff Team Member)