This week is a time of new beginnings. First of all, we will read this week about Creation: the beginning of plant life, animal life, and ultimately human life. But second, a month of holiday observances: a week of preparatory prayers prior to the new year, Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, and then nine days (outside Israel) of Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and finally Simchat Torah—when we rejoice with the Torah upon completing the annual cycle of readings—have now come to an end. It is time to “get back to work!”
But furthermore, the three major festivals—Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot—conclude their cycle now, as well. These holidays were a time of meaningful connection with our Creator, when, in Temple times, the Jewish people would converge upon Jerusalem, bearing offerings as gifts for their heavenly Father, and spend time with G-d in His house. For them, this was the time to return home, and prepare for another year of farming and tilling the land in an agrarian society.
And thus it is symbolic that, at this time, we return to the beginning of the Torah, to start it over again. With the inspiration and renewal of the holidays with us, we sit down to start with the first chapter, “In the beginning G-d created…” and take a fresh new look at His word.
The Torah contains the words G-d dictated to His prophet Moses, and is therefore G-d’s clearest, most direct communication with the world. Like a newly married couple returning from their wedding and honeymoon, we return to the ordinary activities of life in a new place within it, and begin our daily and weekly conversation with G-d as we study His words.
The next Jewish month, Cheshvan, is the only one with no special observance within it; every other Jewish month has at least one special day. It is as if, after the month of Tishrei, which has more holidays than any other, we have time to refocus upon our daily and weekly growth, undistracted. It’s just us, G-d, and His words — a fresh start and a valuable opportunity to proceed into a new life with Him.