TODAY’S POST COMES FROM GUEST-BLOGGER Ann Clark and concerns our weekly living-room Torah study. We begin the reading cycle anew tomorrow (technically, yesterday and today) — but do we ever really begin, or end, anything?
France Street Torah Study
Neal and Ann’s House – scoop at sonic dot net for directions
Saturday, October 2, 2010 – 10 am to noon
Torah Portion: Bereshit [Genesis 1:1 through 6:8]
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 – 43:11 [Ashkenazim]
I love the endless-loop nature of the Five Books of Moses — every completion is but a beginning, because there is no “end” to Torah. This is so perfectly visualized on Simchat Torah when we unroll the scroll and stand with Genesis touching Deuteronomy…such powerful imagery.
And, yet, as Northern Californians well-versed in psycho-speak, some of us (okay, me), are fond of the concept of “closure,” wrapping things up, placing the final period, writing the journalist’s “30.” We’re a culture of final examinations, final grades, last acts, curtain calls, nightcaps, and closing times (well, except for Safeway). And we’ve brought that notion into some of our most painful experiences — separation, divorce, the end of friendships, and death. Some of us have been taught that we must process these experiences to “closure” — implying that there will come a time when we have dealt with them so effectively that we won’t need to deal with them anymore. However, anyone who has suffered a painful loss (which is to say, all of us) knows that it doesn’t quite work that way — it’s not that linear.
Torah, the wisest psychologist of all, understands and in fact models the circular nature of experience.
David Mamet, writing in “Five Cities of Refuge,” says that “Closure is a concept foreign to Jewish tradition. It is an overwhelmingly secular, modern and arrogant idea — that one, by an act of will, manipulation, or aggression can ‘complete’ a disturbing experience [and declare] triumph over fate, chance, anger, grief, or injustice.” Mamet goes on to say that “the struggle to deal with an unjust, confusing, incomprehensible world does not impede our life, it IS our life.”
Finally, he writes: “Bereshit, the very beginning of Torah, counsels that there is and will be no completion, there is no ‘closure,’ and that this lack is not to be decried but, in fact, celebrated.”
I hope you can join us here at Beit Attinson on Saturday to celebrate the ongoing nature of, well, everything. Starting with Genesis 1:1.
The story continues.
Ann Clark Attinson
NB: If you’d like to attend but have never studied before, no worries. We use six or seven different translations, reading aloud until someone has a question or comment. Then we hash it out (usually laughing a lot in the process) and continue until the end of the weekly portion. No Hebrew required — nor is taking the text literally. (Seriously, yes — just as you would with any other artwork.) All /you/ need is curiosity and a ride.