We finally finished reading the last parsha in the Torah. We celebrated Simchat Torah only a few days ago. One might say, “Whew! I am finally finished.” However, this Shabbos we roll the Torah back to the beginning and start all over again at Bereishit. It occurs that this act and many similar Torah stories portends an important lesson in life: Sometimes the end is only the beginning.
Adam and Eve live in Paradise. Life does not get better than that. They eat a fruit from the forbidden tree of life and suddenly, before their first day is over, they are expelled. Paradise is over. Yet, they are able to pick themselves up and restart. They eventually populate the Earth and learn to live like mere mortals.
The generation of Noah sins so grievously that God decides to flood the entire planet and wipe everyone out. Everyone but Noah and his immediate family. You might think this was really the end of life as we knew it but, no, it was merely a reset. Eventually, life returns to normal and the Earth is repopulated. Nowadays, we have over eight billion souls living on Planet Earth.
Yosef was put in prison for 12 long years. His brothers had sold him to some traveling Bedouins and his life looked like it was over and done with. Yet, years later he too gets a reset and he becomes the most powerful leader of the most advanced nation at the time.
Moshe leads the Jewish people into the desert when they get liberated as a nation. They literally get stuck between a rock and a hard place, seeing the vast, deep sea before them and the Egyptian army about to engulf and destroy them from behind. There is no way out. Yet, God created a miracle and they cross the ocean on dry land, surviving an otherwise insurmountable existential threat.
David, as a lad, gets put in the arena to fight the giant Goliath. King Saul was looking for ways to kill him. The odds are overwhelmingly against him. There is no human way he could ever get out of this challenge alive. Yet, somehow, he picks up a few stones, uses his slingshot and becomes the hero and future king of Israel.
Samson is captured when Delilah divulges his secret to the Philistines. His hair is cut, his strength is sapped, he is blinded and tied to two posts in order to be the object of ridicule. He seemed to be a doomed man. There was no way out. Yet, in his last act of strength Hashem gives him back his strength one more time. He knocks over the pillars, brings the amphitheater down and kills more Philistines in that one act than he did throughout a lifetime of battles.
In the Megillah of Ruth we learn about Naomi. Her name means “the pleasant one.” However, after her husband and her sons die, she goes hungry and her life has become miserable. She is depressed, discouraged and embittered, paralyzed with indecision, gloom and doom. She insists that everyone call her by her new name, Mara, “the embittered one.” Yet, she is eventually able to raise baby Oved, born to her daughter-in-law, Ruth. As a result, the dynasty of King David was eventually established and we look forward to the arrival of Moshiach soon.
The common theme behind these stories is that we need not be discouraged when life has its downturns and the end seems near. Sometimes the end of one chapter is only the beginning of the next.
Finally, this too should serve as comfort for those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one in recent time. As Jews we believe that life does not end at the grave. There is something different, even greater, waiting for us in Olam Haba’ah, sometimes referred to as “Olam Haemet.” Sometimes one chapter ends and a new one begins. Sometimes the end is only the beginning.
Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is the acting president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected]