Parashat Bereshit

Dear Friends:

As we transition from September, and the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to October, and the holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, we begin to think about the day after.  Sukkot will pass, Shemini Atzeret will pass, Simchat Torah will pass, and the imminent joy that is inherent on these days will no longer be with us in its most immediate sense.  Of course, we can do our best to schlep some of the simcha that we feel during this holiday season with us through the long winter.  But the imminent intensity of this joy that we can feel only in the moment as we traverse the holiday season will no longer be with us.  A post-holiday comedown is the reality for many, as we look at a Jewish calendar that, for several months throughout the cold winter season, is bereft of holidays, save for Hanukkah. 

How can we combat this jarring conflict of emotions, between a few short weeks in the fall that are jam-packed with simchat Yom Tov, and the barren winter months, with the joy of celebrating Purim and Pesach far off in the distant horizon?

On the Shabbat of Saturday, October 17th, we will read Parashat Bereshit.  In that sedra, after learning about how the Almighty created the world in six days and designated the seventh day as a day of rest, we read how He blessed this Sabbath day:  "And the Almighty blessed the seventh day and sanctified it", in Hebrew, "vayekadesh oto."  This word. "to sanctify", "vayekadesh", stems from the Hebrew root form "kodesh", commonly translated as "holy."  The Almighty sanctified the seventh day and instilled it with holiness.

The great Jewish thinker and sage, Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin (1823-1900) posits that if you ever want to know the truest, most pristine definition of a particular word, then you should look at where that word appears for the first time in the Torah.  This particular usage of the word will always represent the word in its essence, and in its most basic definition.  The term holiness, kedushah, appears for the first time in the Torah in this verse.  "Vayekadesh oto", the Almighty sanctified the Shabbat day.  Kedushat Shabbat, the sanctity of the Sabbath, explains Reb Tzadok, is the most basic and pristine form of holiness that exists, and all other forms of holiness merely stem from it.

As the holiday season draws to an end, we give thanks to Hashem for giving us the gift of the weekly Shabbat.  Let us take advantage of this gift as we attempt to cultivate the joy that may flow from kedushat Shabbat.  The holidays may be ending, and with them their attendant simcha, but the sublime joy that we can experience if we properly observe the Shabbat can surely help to fill the void.

Wishing you a wonderful month of October,

Rabbi Peretz Robinson

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