By Cantor Robin Anne Joseph
My rabbi, in an allusion to a teaching in the Talmud (Niddah 30b), likes to say that we are born in the middle of things. I know that sometimes we like to think of the world beginning with the day of our own birth and ending when we no longer take breath, but there is, of course, a “before” we were born and there will be, God willing, an “after.” As in Tractate Niddah 30b, where we learn that we are taught Torah in utero by our own personal angel before being sent out into the light of day, we are born in the middle of
ATfirst glance, the opening lines of the Torah are simple. But commentators like Rashi believe that beyond the day-by-day account of creation lies a lot more mysteMORE
astonishingly empty and dark, God's spirit hovered upon the surface of the waters.
In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth, when the earth was
God said, "Let there be light. God saw that the light was good. There was light of day an dark of night, morning and evening, one day." God said, "Let there be a firmament, a Heaven, separating the waters and dry land." God named the dry land Earth, and the waters Seas and then God brought forth from the earth seeds and plants and fruit trees. God said, "Let there be for earth light-bearers of a sun for the day, the moon and stars for the night. Let the seas swarm with living creatures and let there be birds to fly in the sky. God saw all that God created was good."
The Harav * KOOK * Institute
* HAFTARAH *
This week's Torah portion tells the story of the world's creation, and the haftarah provides its own sort of commentary on the Torah's first parashah. Isaiah introduces God at the beginning of this haftarah as "the One who created the heavens and stretched them out, who made the earth and all that grows in it" (42:5).
But Isaiah doesn't stop there. Instead, he draws a connection between creating the world to fulfill a specific task and creating the Israelites to fulfill their covenant. And he urges everyone to proclaim the glory of God: "Let the desert and the villages rejoice?let those who live in Sela sing out, and shout from the mountaintops!" (42:11).
The morning service is the usual holiday one, with its own Amidah and the Hallel Psalms of Praise. After Hallel, the hakafot processionals follow as on the night before. After the hakafot, all the Torah scrolls--except three--are returned to the Ark. Three scrolls are needed, one for the reading of the sidra [portion]of Vezot HaBeracha [end of Deuteronomy],the second for the reading of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, and the third for the concluding maftir portion [omitted in some liberal congregations].
Since the custom is for everyone to be honored with an aliyah on Simchat Torah, the section from Vezot HaBeracha is read over and over again. To facilitate this, large congregations will divide into smaller groups, each with its own Torah. Other congregations will call up more than one person at a ti