Last year at this time I created heaven and earth; now I'm about to destroy paradise. OK, I'm just the messenger--still, I can't help but note that Torah holds a mirror to the world. (Praying that this particular reflection omits the upcoming elections.) We're about to start the second year of the triennial cycle of readings, the middle of each parasha, so Bereshit will skip the fun parts and go right to the snake and apple (my reading next Shabbat). It's another really long section for me, over a column, and I'm also reading a column's worth this Shemini Atzeret. I seem to have passed some kind of learning speed bump; preparing this amount is nowhere nearly as arduous as it used to be. Since Bereshit doesn't list kosher birds or skin diseases, most of the words are familiar (except for some tongue-twisters like "I will greatly increase your anguish and your pregnancy,"El-ha'ishah amar harbah arbeh yitsbonech veheronech" [3:16]), and I can predict almost all the trop patterns. I still practice everything a million times, and don't trust my memory even when I know it backwards, but I continue to get a little bit calmer.
Before the universe springs into existence, however, we try to hold the gates open just an inch wider tomorrow morning at Hoshanah Rabbah. I look forward to beating those lulavim to a pulp and then downing some etrog schnapps as we survey the damage, an interesting tradition at my synagogue.