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a season for everything

10/18/2022 08:46:12 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

To everything (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and a time to every purpose, under heaven”. So reads the lyrics from the opening stanza of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” released by The Byrds in 1965. What made this song so moving perhaps was the fact that it is based upon Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, which we read in synagogue this past Shabbat. This set of fourteen couplets features what some might consider opposites, as in a time to be born, and a time to die, or a time for seeking and a time for losing. There is a simplicity in the words, and a timelessness, with a stark realization of a black and white set of choices, and no gray. The fact that these words were penned thirty centuries ago and yet continue to speak to us demonstrate the staying power of our Biblical texts. Thus Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion of the annual reading of the Torah and the resumption from the beginning once again. That we do so with joy, amid singing and dancing, tells us something very powerful. Above the teachings of the Torah, our celebration is not cerebral per se; rather, it is emotional. This is an opportunity to truly recognize that the Torah is our Tree of Life.

For those who regularly follow our Shabbat morning services, you may have come to recognize that I prefer to teach Torah rather than offer a sermon. For far too long, Biblical knowledge was solely in the hands of the clergy. The Torah belongs to all of us, and should be studied, discussed and debated in a way that all who participate feel welcome. I enjoy the opportunity to study and prepare each lesson, and am delighted when congregants debate, question God’s point of view, wonder if a Biblical figure made the right choice, or pose probing questions. These are what study of Torah is supposed to be.

Some may have also noted that there is always something new to learn. That is indeed one of the hallmarks of Torah study. The lyrics of The Byrds and the words of Kohelet (the Hebrew name ascribed to the author of Ecclesiastes) made me think of this teaching from Pirkei Avot 5:24: Ben Bag-Bag taught: Study it and review it – you will find everything in it. Scrutinize it, grow old and gray in it, do not depart from it. There is no better portion of life than this.

He was referring to the Torah, although the Hebrew words’ basic meaning is, “Turn it and turn it”. Thus the connection. Turning can also be applied to the necessity of rolling a scroll back to the beginning where it all starts, Breisheet, as we start anew once again, eager to experience what new teachings we have yet to discover. That is what is so thrilling to me about the study of Torah. It is a lifelong pursuit rich in rewards, a timeless guide for all of humanity. Indeed, how blessed we are to possess the gift of Torah. May we keep on its straight path during this new year.


Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784