A Beginning: Renewing the work of creation

Posted by James Jacobson-Maisels on October 31, 2016
Topics: Jewish Prayer, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality

The Torah, which we have just begun again this last week, begins “bereshit.” This opening word is often translated as “in the beginning” but we can perhaps more properly read as in a beginning, (rather than in the beginning which would be written bareshit). The Torah tells us of a moment, a primordial moment, of beginning. And so too we now begin again. starting our year anew, reading the Torah again from the beginning, discovering ourselves once again, discovering the world once again. We participate, with the Torah, in a beginning, a beginning that we are part of.

Every morning we praise the Divine for “renewing every day the work of creation.” We are told that the world is constantly beginning. What is this beginning? What is our beginning? How often do we begin again? The Hasidic master R. Nachman of Bratslav taught that all his attainments came from the fact that each time, with each act, multiple times a day, he began again from the beginning. He teaches that we are must see not only the world but ourselves as reborn anew each day, as able, each day, to decide anew who we are going to be in the world this day (Likutei Halakhot, Yore Deah, Hilkhot Basar ve-Halav, Halakhah 4:1).

Yet how often do we walk through the world with an attitude of “same old, same old?” How often do we relate to the wonder of every moment with boredom, distraction or anxiety, turning to our phone, chocolate, coffee, chit chat, facebook, twitter, or whatever might take us away from the discomfort of actually beginning again, of actually being in this moment? How often do we genuinely appreciate the extraordinary nature of creation, of our bodies, of our senses, and even of our breath? How often do we marvel at the gift of taste, of sight, of hearing, of the touch of the sun on our face and the feeling of the grass on our feet? How often do we marvel at the this extraordinary humanness we have been granted, our ability to feel, think, reflect, know ourselves and share with others. How often do we touch the grandeur of this gift of life? How inured have we become to the majesty of the world?

This numbing, this losing contact with the fullness of life is something many of us experience. Life somehow feels not fully there. We are either distracted, anxious, stressed, missing the world, or on frenetic overdrive, engaging with a kind of rabid intensity which is actually not present to the miracle of creation. But a simple full connection, an opening to wonder and awe, often eludes us. Yet it does not have to be so. Rather, we can learn to come awake again. To truly take in the words of our morning prayers and see the world as newly created. If such an awakening, if the liberation of touching this wonder, speaks to your heart, consider joining us on Awakening the Divine: The Pardes Spirituality Retreat, where we will learn concrete practices for coming back into touch with our natural awe and wonder and re-awakening to the majesty of the world and of ourselves. It is your birthright. Come and claim it.

I hope to see you there.

The next Pardes Spirituality Retreat will be January 3-8 at the Capital Retreat Center, PA. For more information and to book visit www.pardes.org.il/spirituality

About James Jacobson-Maisels

James grew up outside Hershey, PA and in Bloomfield Hills, MI. He is adjunct faculty of Jewish Thought and Mysticism and Jewish Spiritual Practices and Meditation at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and also teaches at Yeshivat Hadar in New York City at Haifa University and at the Hannaton Educational and Spiritual Center in the Galilee. Click here to read more.

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