Avi Baumol

Begin Again

I remember walking with my grandfather (Zayde) after his son tragically died from cancer at a young age. Here was an eighty-five year old man who had to watch his son cut down in his prime. I said to him, “Zayde, what will you do now?” He looked at me and said, I will have to begin again.

Begin again. I can’t imagine how many times Zayde said that line. After leaving Poland at twenty years old to travel alone to America, never to see his family again–begin again. Learning of his relatives who had perished in the Shoah and being unable to help them or even prepare a levaya (funeral) for them…begin again.
After spending thirty years in the rabbinate in New York building Jewish life and sacrificing himself, and his family for his community, he picked up (in his prime) and made aliyah to Israel. What would he do? Begin again. And then with the loss of his son…

I have thought about that at different points in my life, some turning points, some crossroads. do I have the gumption to begin again?

It seems to me that after Corona ( and I truly hope we are coming to an end of this harrowing year) we as a society need to push the reset button, take a page out of Zayde’s book and ‘begin again’.

Perhaps we in Israel about to engage in our fourth election in two years, should think about beginning again, but somehow differently from how it’s been until now!

I wonder if the US doesn’t have to engage in this same endeavor. Is there a reset button for an entire nation?

Perhaps this is the message of the end of Parshat Shemot and the beginning of Parshat Vaera. Moshe and Aharon go to Egypt with so much gusto, so much confidence–this is going to be easy, they thought, a proverbial ‘walk in the park’. After all, they are speaking in the name of God–to the Israelites, to Pharaoh–it seems Moshe ignored God’s warnings that the first time wouldn’t catch. I’m sure he figured, we will do this once, right, and then get to where we need to go.

Then came his meeting with Pharaoh and nothing was going his way! He left the first meeting having made things worse! The Israelites had a second secret meeting with Pharaoh to try and reverse anything he and Aharon had proposed and when it failed they came back and excoriated Moshe for his behavior–this is a saviour? You’re job ended before it even began Moshe! Crushed and bruised Moshe returns to God and cries out, ‘why did you send me if only to fail? Why am I going to embitter the lives of the Israelites even more?

God’s response in the opening to our parsha? Begin again!

“And the Lord spoke to Moshe and said to him, I am God”. Isn’t this just a repetition of the first words God said to Moshe at the burning bush? Yes, but he needs to begin again.

But this time with a new name of God, with a deeper understanding of your role, with a stronger picture of what this job entails. Begin again but this time, learn from your setback, apply the lessons of loss and start anew!

About the Author
Rabbi Avi Baumol is serving the Jewish community of Krakow as it undergoes a revitalization as part of a resurgence of Jewish awareness in Poland. He graduated Yeshiva University and Bernard Revel Graduate School with an MA in Medieval JH. He is a musmach of RIETS and studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut. He served as a rabbi in Vancouver British Columbia for five years. Rabbi Baumol is the author of "The Poetry of Prayer" Gefen Publishing, 2010, and author of "Komentarz to Tory" (Polish), a Modern Orthodox Commentary on the Torah. He also co-authored a book on Torah with his daughter, Techelet called 'Torat Bitecha'. As well, he is the Editor of the book of Psalms for The Israel Bible-- In summer 2019 Rabbi Baumol published "In My Grandfather's Footsteps: A Rabbi's Notes from the Frontlines of Poland's Jewish Revival".
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