For me, the yearning to “renew our days as they were before” is something that’s quintessentially human and remarkably resonant to the conversation on innovation. (If we insist on calling it that.) While the phrase does appear in a context of a near-obliterated Jerusalem, we only read it in that context once a year; the rest of the time we use it as we seal the Torah back into the Ark after we’ve read that day’s Torah portion. In this context, it is a reminder that although we have read these words before, we re-read them, knowing that, because we change with every reading, our understanding of the words themselves may have also altered, in a way that provides new relevance to and wisdom for our contemporary lives.
When we pray for the renewal of our days “as before,” what we’re praying for is the renewal of our energy, because it takes energy, creativity, and an open mind to re-read something we’re familiar with and see it differently. It takes a receptive heart to be invigorated by an ancient text’s relevance, to look at it differently, and become impassioned about incorporating its lessons into our daily lives.
Torah itself may not be innovation (whatever that means) - literally, as something so ancient, it's probably closer to being the opposite. But what the plea to "renew our days as days of old" presents is the equating of that wizened age with inspired thinking, expressing perhaps a yearning for the enthusiasm we once had before our lives got in the way, the kind of inquisitive interest and fresh perspectives that we had when we were children, or students, or before we were encumbered by life’s responsibilities.
By opening our minds and hearts to innovative readings - of a contemporary situation, a passion project, an ancient text or an encounter with a creative thinker - we have the ability to further amplify the impact of our tradition and generate the necessary energy to recommit to pushing through challenges. By embracing perspectives outside our own, we renew our openness to perceiving and absorbing new meaning every day.
Wishing you a joyous Simchat Torah...