Beginnings are holy.
Each year, in this season of renewal, we are given the opportunity to begin again with a clean slate – or, perhaps, a cleaner slate.
We return to the narrative of our creation, reading the Torah from its first words and imagining the moment when the heavens and the earth were formed, when everything and everyone inhabited the Makom Kadosh, the Garden of Eden.
Our chanting of the holy text is illuminated by the human gift of experience; like a favorite film we watch over and over again, we already know the end of this story. We’ve read, discussed, and debated this tale many times. In the end, we can’t ignore what we already know: that the perfection of the Garden is temporary, and that the chaos of the human condition will soon overrun the flawlessness of God’s creation.
In life, we only get one true beginning – when we are born into this world. Every other “beginning” is simply a reset of that which already exists.
Yes, we can metaphorically begin again, but we are confined to our bodies, and emotionally tethered to a lifetime of accrued experiences and circumstance. We can “lech l’cha” (go forth) and physically move to a different home or a different country. We can de-clutter our homes, empty our inboxes, and organize our sock drawers, yet we will continue to carry with us, the baggage of our parents, our past relationships, our physical and emotional burdens, our traumas, and our regrets.
Still, when I study the story of B’reishit, I am reminded that there existed a world that was once uncomplicated, with very few rules. There was a garden. We were vegetarians. We had clean air and fresh fruit with no pesticides, and we spent our days in a lush playground created by the Ultimate Designer.
Although, the profound lesson lies at the end of the story, when Adam and Chava are cast out of the Garden. Many rabbinic commentaries imply that this was God’s plan all along: that we were always meant to grapple with the complexities of our relationships with each other and with God. We weren’t meant to stay in Gan Eden for long. It was a nest, a safe place to become strong and to grow wings, not a place to live out our days.
Each year in the shadows of Yom Kippur – the emotional and spiritual detoxification of the Jewish people, we read the story of our creation. We are reminded that while the essence of our beings does not change, we can radically alter our paths. As we navigate life’s journey, we may yearn for a simpler set of rules (as they had in Gan Eden), however, we know that the struggles and the challenges in our lives are opportunities to grow and become conscious of our place and purpose in the world.
This is the ultimate lesson of B’reishit: Chava and Adam begin again – this time outside the confines of the Garden, while they remain under the comforting wings of the Shechinah (the feminine aspect of God). Just like Chava and Adam, we can begin again, too, when we choose to accept the responsibility and the challenges that arise as we return to the essence of our creation.
May we continue to see the opportunity to restart and renew our lives while embracing our past, and recognize these opportunities as sacred, precious gifts.