Endings and Beginnings

In the Jewish calendar, tonight is Simchat Torah. The idea behind the holiday is that we read the Torah completely through, once each year. Simchat Torah is the night when we finish reading the last page, and begin reading the first page again. At the end of the story, Moses is leading the people to the border of the promised land. His reward for decades of service of the light is to gaze upon the goal and know that his people will cross into this land of milk and honey, their dream and fulfilled. But we learn that Moses will not cross into this Haven, but rather into Heaven. He dies on the mountain before crossing into Israel.

At this point, we know that the community will survive, but Moses will only survive in memory. His life ends as the story ends, with the last word of the story being “Israel.” In Hebrew as in English, the last letter of the word “Israel” is the letter “L.” That is how the story ends.

On Simchat Torah, after reading this ending, we immediately read the start: “In the beginning…” The story starts again. In Hebrew, the first letter of the Torah is the letter for “V.” When you take the ending letter, “L,” and put the beginning letter, “V,” after it, you get the Hebrew word “Lev,” or “Heart.” We are taught that this represents the hidden heart of the Torah.

To me, this reminds me of the circles and cycles that we experience in life, and also what our task may be. How do we find the hidden heart between endings and beginnings? It is up to us to know that as things spear, others appear; as people die, more are born. In the language of today, when a housing bubble bursts, new wealth can be found.

I talked the other day to a friend of mine who has relatives in the Santa Barbara area. They have been struggling to live in this difficult, high cost of living area. Four of the families have wanted to buy homes in the area and navigate away from life of renters into the American dream of home ownership. Homes have just been too expensive: out of their reach.

But now, as home prices have adjusted downwards, each of these four families have found house that they can afford to purchase. The last sale is closing any time now. Is this a dark time? Is this a time of light? Yes and yes. The people experiencing darkness are those who are not finding their hidden hearts.

There are always endings and beginnings. Each ending leads to a beginning. Look for life, not death. Look for opportunity, not disaster. Look for light, not dark. And look for the hidden hearts. They are everywhere.