What a wonderful first week of school! As I reflect on Rosh Hashanah and this week’s parasha, Vayeilech, I am mindful of beginnings and endings. Summer has ended and a new school year has begun. 5778 is ending and 5779 is about to begin. And we are about to finish reading the Torah and start anew with Breishit on Simchat Torah.
In this week’s parasha, Vayeilech, G-d instructs Bnei Yisrael (the children of Israel) to remind themselves of all of G-d’s commandments during the shmitta year (7th year of harvest) on the holiday of Sukkot through the mitzvah (commandment) of hakhel (mass learning initiative when everyone gathers together to hear the words of the Torah). While the mitzvot of shmitta, Sukkot and hakhel may not appear to have anything in common, they in fact are all about coming together as a community and helping one another. While shmitta is about sharing our physical resources with one another, hakhel is about sharing spiritual resources with others. And on Sukkot we are commanded to welcome guests into our sukkah.
While the end of the Torah (in Vayeilech) emphasizes the need for community and helping one another, this is in contrast to how the Torah began (in Breishit) with the creation of Adam and Eve and the message that each of us in created in the image of G-d (B’tzelem Elokim). The Torah begins with the uniqueness and holiness of each individual and ends with the beauty in community and helping one another. Moshe, the leader of Bnei Yisrael, fully realized how he was created in G-d image, and his final message to the Jewish people was that their ultimate task is to take care of each other and come together as a people.
This beginning and end may be the most powerful and beautiful of all. We must first understand ourselves as individuals (how we are made in G-d’s image) before we can contribute to the community and care for others. As we enter 5779, I wish for all of us to continue on this journey of both self discovery and taking care of one another. Shanah Tovah!