Bereshit By Jonny Freedman
There is a lovely rhythm to the start of the Torah chanting this week as we resume our annual cycle of readings, after the conclusion of the High Holydays. At the end of each day’s creation, barring the second, the same formula is used, with the words “and God saw that this was good”. God’s appreciation of His creation is the first example of a blessing in the Torah. The task of creating dry land (Earth) and the Seas is completed jointly on days two and three. The recitation … “and it was good” is recited not on day two, when it remained unfinished, but twice on day three, when God also created all manner of vegetation. From this, Rashi explains that we should not recite a blessing over an incomplete task. This also explains how the third day (Tuesday, Yom Shlishi in Hebrew), doubly blessed by God, has traditionally become an auspicious day for holding weddings and other celebrations. At the end of the sixth day after the creation of man God surveys all that He has created and finds it not just good, but very good.
How often do we take the opportunity to pause and reflect on ourselves, appreciatively? As a Doctor I never cease to reflect on the marvellous ingeniousness of the human body. Every morning we recognise this in prayer, blessing God for fashioning our bodies “[with] wisdom, creating openings, arteries, glands and organs, marvellous in structure, intricate in design”. The prayer acknowledges that should one aspect fail to function it would be impossible to exist. How appropriate that we should focus on this miracle every morning as we open our eyes and face a new day, later thanking God for removing sleep from our eyes and slumber from our eyelids.
Here are some hints and tips to encourage self-appreciation:
Avoid over-comparison with other people. Whilst this can be inspirational, it can also lead to us feeling inadequate instead of celebrating our own positive aspects and achievements.
Focus on activities and hobbies that make us feel good about ourselves.
By showing appreciation to others around us we are more likely to appreciate ourselves.
Learn something new to aid personal growth and contribute to the world.
Take pride in our successes.
Choose to be around people who make us feel good about ourselves.
Undertake a mitzvah. Maimonides reminds us of the pre-eminence of giving to charity above all other positive commandments. The potential personal gain from positive mitzvot should also not be forgotten.
Personally, I have found the latter really powerful. For some year’s I have participated in Mitzvah Day, which this year falls on Sunday 19 November. Last year I chose to move out of my comfort zone (gardening projects!) and take part in a telephone appeal on behalf of World Jewish Relief. This year there will be even more opportunities within our communities to contribute to this multi-faith initiative. By doing so, we will have an opportunity to enrich the lives not only of others but also our own!
Jonny Freedman is a GP and a member of St Albans Masorti Synagogue.