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Parshat Bereishit: True Beginnings are Always Improbable

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

To begin anew is always an act of risk and hope. This is what makes something new, actually new, and not just a re-assembling of the old. If it is truly new, then nothing like it has been seen or known before. Beginning anew is a leap of faith in the possibility of something unknown. It is hard enough to invent something truly new, but to begin our lives anew is much harder still.

I am touched this week by the Midrash which teaches that God created and destroyed many worlds before ours (974 worlds before this one according to Midrash Tehillim 90:13, other opinions say 1,000 worlds, others say even more). How did God keep creating, how did God keep going? What gave God hope that this next one would be better? Would be able to sustain itself? Would be worthy of life? Whether or not you believe in God, or in the creation of this many worlds, are not these the same questions we all ask ourselves at the start of each new year? Sometimes, we ask them at the start of each day. Sometimes, many times a day. During times of turmoil and suffering, we all ask: How do we begin again? After so many loses, or so many failures, how do we try anew?

Perhaps part of one answer lies in recognizing that true beginnings are by definition seemingly impossible. And yet, many of those impossible things happen all of the time. Every revolution seems impossible before it begins (which is why it doesn't begin earlier) and doomed to failure until it succeeds (which may be exactly why they do succeed). Every major historical step towards more justice and freedom seems impossible until it happens - the freedom of folks from slavery, the possibility of women voting, the reality of gay men and women marrying whomever they actually love, the Berlin Wall falling and the Soviet Union collapsing, and on and on... They all seemed impossible until they happened, perhaps until the day before they happened.

As we move forward into the Rosh HaShanah, I pray that we all find ways of leaning into the seemingly impossible; that we feel the spaciousness for the potential of something truly new; that we find community to support us as we leap, and risk, and plant, and love!



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