As soon as we finish reading the Torah on Simchas Torah, we immediately begin leining parshas Bereishis. And when we make a siyum, the minhag is to start the beginning of the next masechta at the very same celebration.
What is behind this?
The Torah begins with a ב and ends with a ל. This is strange as it spells בל which has negative associations. Think of words with these two letters in this order and it is invariably a negative connotation. A few examples: בעל, בלי, הבל, נבל, בלק, בלעם.
It gets worse. Torah she’baal peh begins with a מand ends with a ת. This of course spells מת – dead.
I once heard an explanation in the name of Rabbi Joseph Pearlman. We never simply complete Torah, we always start again. As soon as we finished the last words of V’Zos Habracha, we start Bereishis. So too at a siyum, as soon as we finish one masechta, we begin a new one.
In this light, the last letter of Torah she’bichsav and the first letter now spells לב (heart – suggesting our full emotional involvement) and Torah she’baal peh spells תם – perfection.
Even the word ש”ס (shas) has a gematria of 360 suggesting a circle of 360 degrees with no linear start or end point, just a continuous, ongoing circle.
The concept of continuity resonates with me in two, quite different ways.
Firstly, my wife and I are thrilled to have become grandparents this week. A Yom Kippur grandson! We feel very blessed and grateful and wish everyone to enjoy much simcha and nachas from their families.
Continuity also features in school too. For a start, thankfully school is still open! That is no small feat and it is has taken many people and much work to achieve this. Please G-d, we should continue to stay open and safe in the months ahead.
As we again begin a new Jewish year and a new cycle of Torah, may we absorb the above ideas and engage in Torah with all our לב and with an appreciation of its perfection.
Wishing you all a wonderful yom tov.
Rabbi J Golker