This week we come to the end of the Book of Bereishit. Bereishit is full of narrative, from Creation, the Flood and on to the slow process of how human beings struggled to find a Monotheistic, ethical, way to live within a just society. At the same time other civilizations were also developing their own religions. But all of them have disappeared and we alone remain in a direct link to the Jewish Way of Life that became The Torah, starting with the Sinai Revelation in the Book of Exodus over three thousand years ago.
Many Jews who struggle to understand or keep the Jewish way of life often say “We understand the grand ideas of being a good human being, but why do we need all these petty, little rules and laws?”
The answer is that the greatest of ideas, emotions and achievements are wonderful in theory. But if they are not translated into daily actions, they become mere sentimentality. I may say I love my wife, or I believe in being honest, but if I don’t act that way every day, what value there to the slogan? Or if I say I want to be healthy and fit but I do not exercise or diet, then like every New Year’s Resolution, it gets forgotten within a few days.
We need big ideas. We need our history and our narratives to tell us about where we have come from and where we should go to. But if we don’t actually behave as if they matter, they won’t. When we pass on to our children what matters to us, we do it in two ways, by talking, telling and reciting but most all by acting.
So by all means make your New Year Resolutions and have a Good Year. But remember it’s what you do that makes an impression much more than what you say or think.