October 11, 2001
A Portion of Parasha Breshit
Here we go again! We start the New Year by reading the Torah all over again from the beginning. Why do we do this, year after year? Why do we read the same things over and over again? Maybe we can find the answer in the word that means "year" in Hebrew: shana.
There are two words in Hebrew that are similar to shana -- and they might look like they are linked to the word shana. One is shina -- meaning "changed" and the other one is shinen -- meaning "repeated it over and over again until it was learned." (Yes, that little word means all that!) Changed and repeated, those two words sound like opposites. But they are not. It's like going back to school every year -- you'll always have math, English and history. But every year, you build on what you learned the year before. You can't do subtraction without knowing addition; you can't do multiplication and then later division without knowing addition and subtraction.
The year moves in a circle, and so do the Torah readings. But it isn't really a circle. It's a spiral that comes around to the same spot every year, but one level higher (similar to a stretched-out Slinky). So, this year, we will learn something about "Breshit" that is based on what we learned last year. Each year our understanding deepens -- of our school lessons, of our Torah readings and of our life.