Finally, we come to the end of this glorious run of Moed – sacred time.
Depending on how you’ve been counting we started at the beginning of Succot. Or maybe we started at Rosh Hashanah, or maybe Slichot – the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, or maybe seven weeks ago on the New Moon of the month of Elul, when we first started to blow the Shofar. Personally Tisha B’Av is always an important moment when my thinking around the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons steps up a gear – that was ten weeks ago. Tisha B’Av is, of course, the end of its own mini cycle, that begins with the fast of Tammuz and certainly there is a run of Haftorot that began thirteen weeks ago.
Then, of course, Sukkot really marks the end of the harvest cycle, that’s a cycle that began with Pesach, over half a year ago. Finally, Simchat Torah itself marks the end of a yearly cycle that began, exactly a year ago. And as bring this journey to a conclusion we start off again, we will be reading Bereishit this Friday morning, and on Shabbat. I always feel touched by the etymology of the word we use to describe the prayerbook we use on Festivals – Machzor. The root comes from the Hebrew word to return, to be cyclical, to be in the moment of recycling.
But there are two special moments in the coming days when this rolling, recycling wave comes to a pause, and they both deserve observance.
The first is this Wednesday night Thursday morning when we mark Shmini Atzeret – Atzeret literally means an end. It is a festival without Lulavim or Matzah or even cheesecake. It is a moment of pause, perhaps it’s fitting that Shmini Atzeret’s most notable liturgy is Yizkor, emptiness also that deserves its moment. It’s always a special day, it feels mature, unforced and genuine.
Then on Friday morning comes the pause in our journey through the Torah cycle. We come to the end of Deuteronomy, symbolically turn the Torah over, and then begin again. In that turning over there is a pause, a reset of the clock our spiritual lives. We bury Moses and meet, again, Adam and Eve and the possibilities of our future open before us once again.
May we finish this journey well, and start anew our next journey with even more purpose and energy,
Chag Sameach and