Shabbat Bereishit – Shabbat of Beginning.

Many people can relate to the annoyance of someone who gets a bit overboard in sharing his or her vacation memories and photos?  It almost seems as if the photos replace the purpose of the vacation.  Many would even question the purpose of a visit to Pisa, if is bereft of the traditional photo with outstretched arms “catching” or “pushing” its leaning tower. What, then, is the purpose of going on a vacation?

Parashat Berishit (Genesis) The Garden of Eden. credit: Darius Gilmont.

If the vacation were cut short inadvertently, would the vacation still be worth it? Would it still be a success?  In fact, objectively speaking, wouldn’t the money spent in the first place, be utilized more on augmenting ones savings or even helping the poor?

If the purpose of a vacation is to be rewarded for ones work, then having it cut short will appear as a diminishment.  When a vacation is purely a respite from the drudgery of daily routines then even a generous amount will not suffice to bring happiness.  The ideal would be a complete vacation 365 days a year.

Every week of the year another portion of the Torah is read, ending on Simchat Torah.  This week the cycle begins anew with the first full portion of the year, Beraishit.  It is always read the first Shabbat following the High Holidays season.

Theoretically, Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, would appear to be the perfect place to begin the cycle of Torah readings.  Why then, is the first portion only read almost a month later?  In fact, why start it in that month at all, why not during Shavuot, the festival commemorating the giving of the Torah?  Or on Yom Kippur when the Torah was finally brought down from the mountain? Why now after all the holidays have finished?

Perhaps, Jewish holidays can teach the purpose of vacations in general. Jewish holidays are not just times set aside for rest and pleasure.  They also serve to illuminate the rest of the year. As is clear from increase in religious activities, rituals and traditions on those days.

Vacations should certainly be fun, restful and relaxing. They are undoubtedly well worth the money. However, they should be there to rejuvenate the body so the mind is able to work better and more efficiently.  The office and the daily work is the ideal, making the real world a better and more G-dly place. The vacation days are there to be holy-days!  They should aim to give inspiration for the rest of the year, not to escape it.  They should re-energise ones life not just the social media platforms.

In Chassidic thought Shabbat Beraishit sets the tone for the whole year.  Over a full month the high holidays slowly fill one with tools and inspiration meant to unpack over the forthcoming year.  Specifically after all the holidays is it most fitting to begin the new cycle of the Torah.  Only after being fully recharged can one now approach the new phase of the daily grind, ones mission in life.  May this new beginning bring peace, tranquility, good health and happiness to all!


Rabbi Ari Rubin is the Rabbi of the Cairns Jewish Community and together with his wife run the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life in North Queensland, a division of Chabad of RARA

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