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    All over again – Mass’ei

    With this week’s sidra we reach the end of the fourth Book of the Torah.

    It’s exciting to complete a task, even the reading of a Biblical book. Joining in the declaration, Chazzak chazzak v’nit-chazzek – “Be strong, be strong, let us strength each other”, is a moment of celebration.

    The first time you do it can never be forgotten – but how about the umpteenth time, when you have been a regular synagogue-goer all your life and you have been following the Torah reading for more years than you can remember?

    It is possible to say you’re bored and it’s all deja vu. But not if you are like one of my teachers whom I quote often. He used to follow the Torah reading each year through the eyes of a different commentator.

    This year might have been his Ibn Ezra year, last year it could have been Rashi and next year it might be Samson Raphael Hirsch. He reached old age and presumably never ran out of commentators.

    I must admit that though I try to follow his method I do not always succeed, but I certainly find something new each year which I did not notice the year before. I call this the Ben Bag Bag way.

    At the end of chapter 5 of Pir’kei Avot, Ben Bag Bag (the word “Bag” may be an abbreviation for Ben Ger, “the son of a proselyte”) is quoted as saying, “Turn it (the Torah) and turn it again, for everything is in it; contemplate it, wax grey and old over it and do not stir from it, for you can have no better rule than this”.

    Every time we encounter a given verse or teaching our circumstances have changed; we are different people and it is a different world. Every time we read a parashah we inevitably “turn it and turn it again”, and it speaks to us with a new message.

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