The End if Near- I Hope

Recently I saw this cartoon that seems to speaks to this moment of the resurgence of Covid. It is so spot on:

Seeing this cartoon reminded of the lyrics from Closing Time by Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

I was thinking of this all this week when reading parshat VaYechi, this week’s Torah portion, and the end of the book of Genesis. It seems to be the end of all of the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs and the tying up of all the loss ends.  Yaakov gives all of descendants their blessings, he will give instructions for his death. With Yaakov’s death we are at end the our story being about a family. Next week we will start the story as a nation in Egypt. Here is the end of the family narrative and with that we begin the story of us a people. Is this a moment of happiness or sadness?

This reminds me of a great midrash:

King Solomon has said: The day of one’s death is better than that of his birth. When a human being is born all rejoice, and when he dies all weep. But it should not be so. Rather, at one’s birth no one has yet cause to rejoice; for no one knows to what future the babe is born, what will be the development of his intellect or of his soul, and by what works he will stand; whether he will be a righteous person or a wicked person, whether they will be good or evil; whether good or evil will befall them. But when they die, then all ought to rejoice if they have departed leaving a good name, and has gone out of this world in peace.

This may be likened, in a parable, to two ships that set out to sail upon the great ocean. One of them was going forth from the harbor, and one of them was coming into the harbor. And every one was cheering the ship that set sail from the harbor, and rejoicing, and giving it a joyous send-off. But over the ship that came into the harbor no one was rejoicing.

There was a wise man there who said: “I see a reason for the very opposite conduct to yours. You ought not to rejoice with the ship that is going out of the harbor, for no one knows what will be her fate; how many days she will have to spend on the voyage, and what storms and tempests she will encounter. But as to the ship that has arrived safely in port, all should rejoice with her, for she has returned in peace.”

Midrash Koheleth 7

I was thinking about this idea this past week during Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorated when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon.

Asarah B’Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period. This started the Second Temple period. When that came to an end on the 9th of Av we began our rabbinic diasporic reality. Is the end of an era good or bad? Like the wise man in the midrash I want to be an optimist and say that it is a good thing. We call all wish of the end of our current era/situation and dream about what will come next.


1 Response to “The End if Near- I Hope”

  1. 1 ShiraDest December 18, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    Excellent points, and I love that midrash!
    Shavuah Tov,

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