Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time is now possible. It’s time to start over. To turn back time and jump forward all at once. This week we restart the Torah from the beginning. A new beginning. A chance to take a deeper look at what these ancient words have in store for us in our modern lives. What lessons can we glean from the Sages and eras gone by that will help us in our 140-character, instant gratification, ADD world?

And so, with this time of fresh starts and new beginnings, I’m commencing my own personal project. A project to flip unturned stones and find out what this really means to me. How is the Torah mine?  How has it changed me? How can I still grow from words I’ve read before?

I can’t promise that it will always be valuable to others, and I can’t say that it will be a guaranteed good read. One thing I can commit to is that it will be personal. It will be an inside look to my life, my story, and my views of the world through the lens of Torah. There will be stories, both my own and favorites that I’ve heard. There will be lessons, things I’ve picked up from teachers and dots that I’ve connected on my own. There may even be some laughter and some tears. Who knows? It’s going to be an experience for all of us together, and hopefully something we can all learn and grow from at the same time. It should be one heck of a ride, and I’d love it if you could join in. Comment, send in your stories, email me, complain, share with friends. Make it yours, too.

New beginnings… it’s a relief and it’s terrifying at the same time. There’s hope for good to come and fear for the unknown all at once. Prayers that all will be easy and end well… or at least end well. What will we be faced with: darkness or light?

We always think of the story of Creation in Bereishis as starting off with, “In the beginning, G-d said ‘Let there be light!’” Very seldom do we remember that the story doesn’t start that way…

1. In the beginning of G-d's creation of the heavens and the earth, א. בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱ־לֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
2. the earth was void and chaotic, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of G-d was hovering over the face of the water, ב. וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱ־לֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
3. and G-d said, "Let there be light," and there was light. ג. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ־לֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי אוֹר

We always seem to skip the second verse… and I can’t blame anyone who does. Who wants to think about the beginning of the universe as dark and chaotic? Why do we have to include that part? Can’t we just skip it and go straight to the light?

Awareness. Consciousness. Perspective. Knowledge. Clarity.

Five words I always wish I could have more of in my life.  Five words of light, illumination, and sight. Instead, there have been so many times in my life that closely resembled the second verse far more.

Emptiness. Chaos. Darkness. Abysmal. Unsettled.

There’s nothing more unsettling than feeling unsettled. Things can be going great and everything is working out perfectly and there could still be something that’s just not… right. Something that doesn’t sit well on an essential level. Something missing. There’s a void there, a lacking. I guess that’s where I was 5 years ago…

Everything was amazing. Life was falling into place, but something just wasn’t right. Something was empty. I tried new things, got involved with different activities, met more people… but I was still unsettled. I didn’t want to deal with it though… There was something petrifying about that darkness that I didn’t want to wander into. Yet after some time, I found myself hovering over the depths of self-discovery, ready to plunge headfirst into figuring out how to rid myself of the emptiness. And I took a deep breath and dove into those uncharted waters.

I can’t explain what made me turn a perfectly good life upside-down in search of… what? All I can say is that I was tired of feeling unsettled and it was time for me to do something about it. No more waiting around; I wanted to create my own clarity, my own consciousness, my own light.

Starting to sound familiar? There’s a reason that darkness comes before light in the story of Creation. One of my favorite teachers always says, “Confusion is one step before clarity,” and it’s true. Creation was no different. G-d’s spirit was hovering, unsettled. He knew He wanted to be able to make this world His own, to dwell here, but there was only darkness and emptiness and confusion. And so, He did what He had to do.

And G-d said, “Let there be light.”

Every one of us goes through times in life of darkness… confusion so thick that there isn’t even a light at the end of the tunnel for us to look forward to. And yet in that very first part of the Torah, we find consolation. When we’re unsettled and lost and empty, G-d is hovering there with us. Even in times of the deepest darkness, we’re not alone. All it takes is one moment of redirection, one realization that something must change, and in a second everything can turn around as quickly as when G-d said, “Let there be light.”

I feel blessed that G-d gave me the courage to take that plunge and barrel through the darkness in search of something meaningful. I feel even more blessed that when I went searching for that clarity, He was there and unsettled along with me, waiting for me to prepare myself for Him to create the light in my life that would change everything. And He did.

And there was light.

As we all start our new beginnings, may we be blessed with the ability to know the difference between darkness and light, between chaos and clarity. May we realize when things in our lives are unsettled, and have the courage to change them for the better. May we always be confident that G-d is right there in it with us, and may we merit to see the light he has given our lives in the darkest of times.

With hopes for the immediate redemption and the ultimate revelation of G-d’s light, Rucheli