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The Jewish people are a tenacious bunch. Despite the odds being stacked against us, we continue to survive and thrive. There are many reasons for this, but today I’m thinking about this weekend’s holiday, Simchat Torah.

Why? Because it combines joy and sorrow. We dance and mourn – dance with a Torah scroll in our arms, and mourn the deceased.

This happens not just on the same day; it takes place during the same service. First, we dance with the scrolls; open them and read the very end of the Torah and immediately turn back to the beginning and read from there. Every single year.

And then, after we’ve caught our breath, we recite the Yizkor memorial prayers, remembering and honoring our loved ones who no longer walk the earth, and yet continue to live in our hearts and our memories.

This practice challenges us to recognize the importance of endings and beginnings, life and death. Both are complex and beautiful, and sometimes utterly mystifying.

So is Torah. Each year in the fall we begin reading it again, and each year when we complete our readings I remain perplexed. I don’t understand the God of the Torah, I can’t comprehend many of the commandments, and I find parts of it breathtakingly beautiful and parts of it simply upsetting.

But every year, I am ready to begin again. To try to understand again. Or sometimes not try to understand, but merely to absorb the words and melodies and let them take me on a journey into my soul.

When we begin anew, I am struck by the fact that the Torah begins with the letter bet. The second letter of the aleph-bet. I wonder, is this meant to teach me something? Can it help me understand my place in the world, that although I am neither first nor best, I am not unworthy?

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, in “The Book of Letters,” noticed that the letter bet is shaped like a house, which in Hebrew is bayit. He wrote, “You can walk into a bayit, and you are at home. The Holy One wants us to be at home in His world, so the Torah begins with a bayit. Bayit is the house God visits.”

If the bet at the beginning is an invitation to enter God’s house, I will gladly walk through the doorway once again. As countless Jews have done, year after year after year. May we be blessed to continue far into the future.