By Susan Schwartz
This Shabbat, we all take a deep breath, as the busy Jewish holy day and festival season has come to an end. During the past weeks we have taken time to reflect, set intentions, remember our loved ones and celebrate with joy. This Shabbat we begin the annual reading of the Torah with Parashat B’reishit –the beginning of our story and a foundation of Jewish tradition.
Each year we read, “When God began to create heaven and earth— the earth being unformed and void, Tohu v’bohu תהו ובהו. According to Rashi there was an ‘astonishing emptiness’; there was something before there was heaven and earth.
My husband and I recently experienced our own version of tohu v’bohu during a major home renovation. We took our first floor down to the studs – literally, the walls, floor and ceiling. The space was unformed, our own astonishing emptiness and a sense of wonder of what it could become.
Of course, we had design plans, an aspirational blueprint guiding the renovations. We had picked out the new finishes and appliances and we had a schedule. But what is on paper and what we imagined does not always work as planned. While we referred to the plans regularly, we adjusted as needed and learned patience and trust. And as often is the case, some of the revisions in our renovation plan resulted in improvements we would not have imagined at the onset of our project.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner taught that Jews find “a blueprint for creation” in the Torah and every generation reinterprets this sacred text afresh. A blueprint is a guide towards achieving our needs and sets forth a plan for action. But life happens and often gets in the way. Our plans require review and re-vision in order that our actions continue to reflect our values.
Rabbi Kushner added his lesson for life: “When you see something that is broken, fix it. When you find something that is lost, return it. When you see something that needs to be done, do it. In that way, you will take care of your world and repair creation.” When life challenges us, we can always return to Torah – our blueprint – to rediscover meaning in our lives.
Susan Goldberg Schwartz is currently a Jewish Educator at LiNK, with over 30 years experience educating individuals and families across multiple generations in Jewish Buffalo. In addition, Susan serves as a Cantorial soloist, teaches music to preschoolers, and is a life-long Bills fan!