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Parshas Bereishis - The Postseason                30 Tishrei 5779

10/09/18 10:21:22


I was pleasantly surprised when a few people asked me about the weekly Parsha message for Bereishis last week. Due to the fact that following the conclusion of the Chag and having only half a week left until Shabbos coupled with a medical procedure I had undergone, I was unable to write something for the very first Parsha of the year, which I had desperately wanted to do. Since we are all familiar with the law found in Shulchan Aruch and Rama O.C. 299:6 quoting Rambam that Havdala can be recited until Tuesday because it is still connected to the previous Shabbos, I was given some leeway in catching up from last week and writing about Bereishis until today!

This time of year, heralds the end of the baseball season with the playoffs, finally the World Series. In sports as well as so many other activities in life, this is how one wraps up important projects or events. A team can be in top form during an entire season, but if it doesn’t win, it feels like a big waste. On the other hand, if a team is mediocre during the season but manages to win it all – playoffs and take the Series - in the case of baseball - then the regular season is forgotten. So, too, with all athletes and players. Despite an athlete having a great season, he will be remembered by how well or poorly he performed in the playoffs and the championship games. Chazal, the Rabbis have said, “HaKol Holeich Achar HaChisum”: everything follows the end or conclusion. If the star player fizzles out during the championship game, it wipes out the great regular season. If the worst player during the year has a championship end, he will be remembered.

When we use sports or mundane situations to compare to holy ones we remark, “L’Havdil Bein HaKodesh L’Chol”, to separatethe holy from the mundane. This kind of analogy to a regular season and postseason is consistent with the time of year we are currently entering. We’ve just finished the last month of the previous year and the first month of the new year. The time of the month of Elul with its preparation and the month of Tishrei, which is packed with the holiest of days, together make up the main season of the Jewish calendar. Tishrei, with Rosh Hashana, Ten Days of Repentance, Yom HaKippurim, Sukkos, Shmini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah, is the holy season. Now we begin the long haul of the post season - the rest of the year - which determines if we will be champions or not. Some people had a wonderful, inspiring few months, but then will fall off the bandwagon while others had a mediocre high holiday season but will take off during the rest of the year. At this point we’ve made it to the playoffs and will keep on going to the championship games. It is irrelevant how we did during the regular season at this time, now we must focus on being the best right now, focusing on continuing at that level from now. No one should get down on themselves for not having a great Yom Tov; we can have a great post high holiday season over the next ten months which is almost as important. For those who had a fantastic season, it is all the more important to keep up that pace and to build upon the original season. This idea rings loudly as we begin sefer Bereishis.

The very first word of the Torah is B’Reishis - ‘In the beginning”. There are dozens of commentaries and explanations to this word and to the beginnings of the world. Alongside all the deep explanations we typically learn, one can simply look at the word B'Reishis and explain the first letter ‘Beis’ to mean with or in the beginning. The letter ‘Beis’ is an affiliate or a branch of the word ‘Reishis’ - beginning. God gave a special strength to the creation that each person can begin anew from the beginning, just as in the original creation. When we begin to learn the Chumash/Torah over again after all completion of the festivals of Tishrei, we do so with a new invigoration. It is with this same enthusiasm that we learned Torah and Parshas Bereishis the very first time. We have the same strength to do it again. We have the ability to learn Bereishis all over again with the same excitement and enthusiasm as we had when we learned it the first, the second, and every time.

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Chagiga chapter three and in other midrashim explains why the Torah begins with a Beis and not an Aleph. The word for blessing, Bracha, begins with the letter Beis, while the word for curse, Arur, begins with an Aleph. Rabbi Dov Weinberger in his sefer Shemen HaTov explains that the primary ideal by which a person should live his life is the ’beis’, the with and in something else, to recognize that we need a second something in life, whether it is we who need the other or the other needs us. If we recognize the need for others and for us to be there for others, then we will see blessings in our lives. On the other hand, someone who lives life by the Aleph, saying, “I don’t need anyone else; I’m not here to help anyone else,” life will be cursed.

The fact that we start learning the Torah again and again reinforces the concept that one time is never enough. It is with each additional time we learn that the need to add on to the original learning continues to grow and grow. Even when the original or first-time leaning is good, reviewing and going over solidifies and deepens that which was learned initially. The post season isn’t only viewed as a different time; it is an opportunity to add on to the original season, strengthening that which we started. In Judaism, when we make it past the initial onslaught of Yom Tov, it is only the beginning the Bereishis of the year. Now the rest of the year comes to strengthen, solidify and quantify that which we committed to during the High Holiday season.

May the blessings of the new year be the beginning of a great year and be a true blessing to continue throughout the rest of the year during the post season.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780