This week we ended the High Holidays with Simchat Torah. This is a rabbinically mandated festival in which we honor the heritage of our people, the Torah. We hold a special service, dance around with the Torot (plural) and sing songs from verses out of the Torah.
We read the last portion of the Torah, “V’Zoet HaBracha” and then re-roll our scroll and read the first and part of the second chapter of B’reishit, Genesis. As such, we see that the Torah doesn’t end and begin—not really. It is a continuous stream from which we are always learning and with each pass, we learn something new. This is the lesson of our Torah study, that the end and beginning are merely contrived; it never comes to a conclusion.
Such is life. The idea of “Circle of Life” has come into our pop culture from media. This, however, is a very familiar concept in Judaism. Just as the Torah is a continuous stream, so too is our lives. Consider that cycles occur in nature. There is day, then night, then day again. There is spring, summer, autumn, winter, then back to spring again. And so on.
Consider that there are cycles in life as well. After every end is another or new beginning. We know this from our experience.
There are a couple of ways to consider this. Sometimes we all get very pessimistic. Things were going so well, why couldn’t it stay that way? We are creatures of habit and once we relax into a set routine or situation, we just want it to continue. It’s too much stress to have to—or really want to—put ourselves out to deal with change.
This is really true when things are going well, though, isn’t it? We want them to stay going well. We know that if, or really when, things change it’s from good to bad. When things are bad, we can’t wait for things to get good again, and then savor it while the going’s good.
So far, we’ve looked at this as a passive experience. We sit and enjoy the good and then wait with trepidation for things to turn around. We can also be pro-active.
Just as we re-roll the Torah scroll right back to the beginning immediately after reading the end, we can do that with life as well. Instead of sitting around and having these things happen and dread for the next shoe to drop, we can see what the situations are telling us, take action, and use the experience to learn for the future or take steps to prepare ourselves.
In fact, most of the time, we do that. We’re working, spending our money on fun things like trips and dining out, maybe a new car. Then the bills come. We have to fix that car, buy a new refrigerator because this one just broke down right after the warranty expired or a medical bill from an illness we didn’t see coming.
Well, maybe we need to start saving more money and not go out as much. So after we’ve recovered and paid the bills, and the money is coming in, we ought to consider approaching life a little differently. Maybe that extra payment for an extended warranty isn’t such a bad idea. And perhaps supplemental insurance wouldn’t hurt either. This better than gambling with life events.
Think about the Torah. While many see it as a story, it’s not. The story is there as a didactic, to emphasize the commandments and teachings of Moshe Rabbeinu and the evolution of how that all came to be. The teachings are presented in a format; it’s up to us to figure that out and then apply it to our lives.
So the circle of life is really life, the ultimate life, living the mitzvot and commandments which Hashem gave us. This is the ultimate guide to living. It’s a guide to right action, the best way to handle situations in life as they come up.
True, the Torah may not tell you whether or not get an extended warranty on that new appliance. It will, however, tell you to be fair in business dealings and love your fellow as yourself. So maybe that fellow selling you the new appliance and the extended warranty will be so happy for your business, understanding and polite demeanor that they’ll tell you to come back next week and take advantage of that unannounced sale starting on Thursday or throw in that extended warranty as part of the deal. Saves you a couple of bucks that makes it easier to take care of that medical bill.