Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Breishit, brings us back to the beginning of the Torah once again. “In the beginning…” it starts, launching the year-long cycle of telling and retelling our story that Jews move through every year. This week’s dvar Torah author, Leah Kaplan Robbins, writes that although there is comfort in the familiarity of this cycle – of hearing the same words over and over again, year after year – it can grow kind of stale. “The rabbis, too, struggled against the receding of the familiar, and suggested ways to make the Torah come alive anew each year,” she writes.
The “takeaway”: Robbins writes that whether one is talking about the Torah or our work in the field of service and social justice, the only way to “revive one’s passion for the familiar,” is to “[engage] with it in a new way.” This is the time of year, she writes, to “take stock” of our lives and passions, and identify what areas can use a “jump start.” In the process, we often find ourselves rejuvenated and more committed than ever before. Robbins quotes Nelson Mandela’s beautiful words, which speak to this point, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
The “to-do”: Take some time today or this coming weekend to evaluate the places in your life that may have grown familiar and stale. Think about the commitments you made – to family, friends, your community – and how you might reinvigorate them. As Kaplan writes: “Though its words are well-worn, the Torah doesn’t remain stagnant, but changes as we change, revealing new interpretations over time. As we embark on this brand new year, may we take action to bring about changes in ourselves that open our eyes to the Torah in new ways; and through its wisdom, may we find the inspiration to go out and change the world.”
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.