There is no real ending to our Torah. We never get the ‘happily ever after’. Instead, in our communities, after each cycle we roll back and begin again. And again.
Moses is shown the Promised Land. He stands on the top and surveys it from one end to the other. He is allowed to glimpse his life’s work, but no more than that.
We as readers join in the mourning, the lament and the eulogy. We say: “There was no one like Moses and never will be, who stood panim al panim, face to face, with God”.
And then the Torah finishes before the Israelites can themselves enter the Promised Land.
This sense of an unfinished ending permeates the whole Biblical narrative. Yet this is not considered a problem in Jewish tradition – rather, it is seen as a strength. There are no true endings, but always an ending with a beginning.
Looking closely at the rituals, we don’t actually read the last word of the Torah and then immediately begin to roll and start again. There’s a brief but important pause, after the death and before the creation, after the last lamed has rolled off our tongues and before the first bet is recited from Genesis.
And in this brief pause, we stop, and together we say: Chazak chazak v’nitchazeik. Be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened/let’s summon our strength.
This past year of Covid lockdowns has been relentless. So it is no wonder many of us are feeling depleted, looking ahead but worrying about the relentless merry-go-round.
We might not be ready yet to return to a new beginning. To jump from the end, to roll back, and start again. Sometimes a pause is all we need.
- Rabbi Sandra Kviat serves Crouch End Chavurah
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
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