A week of beginnings, and Kabbalat Shabbat brings us into the beginnings of Torah – full circle from the final line in Devarim “… and with all the strong hand and with all the great fear that Moses did before the eyes of all Israel “ to the first line in Bereshit, “When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, and God said, Let there be light.“
What a month plus of celebrations we have had. We have Zoomed around the world and into each other’s homes and hearts. As the wind knocked over the willows from our sukkah on Shabbat, we are reminded that the seasons have shifted. We now change the wording in the Amidah from Moreed ha’tal, a blessing for dew, to Masheev ha ruach oo’moreed ha geshem, for the wind to blow and the rain to fall.More
I will be in Winnipeg for the reading of Bereshit – a very special beginning. Rabbi Allan Finkel, who was present for my installation as rabbi of Kolot Mayim, will be installed as rabbi of Winnipeg’s Temple Shalom. I will be staying with family friends – which is good as many of the hotels are being set aside for people who have been displaced from their housing due to the recent very early and very heavy snowfalls in Manitoba.
God creates the world in six days. On the first day He makes darkness and light. On the second day He forms the heavens, dividing the “upper waters” from the “lower waters.”
On the third day He sets the boundaries of land and sea, and calls forth trees and greenery from the earth.
On the fourth day He fixes the position of the sun, moon and stars as timekeepers and illuminators of the earth.
Fish, birds and reptiles are created on the fifth day; land animals,
On the sixth day God creates the human being.
God ceases work on the seventh day, and sanctifies it as a day of rest.
God forms the human body from the dust of the earth, and blows into his nostrils a “living soul.” Originally Man is a single person, but deciding that “it is not good that man be alone,” God takes a “side” from the man, forms it into a woman, and they are united with each other.
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and commanded not to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The serpent persuades Eve to violate the command, and she shares the forbidden fruit with Adam. Because of their sin, it is decreed that man will experience death, returning to the soil from which he was formed, and that all gain will come only through struggle and hardship. Man is banished from the Garden.
Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain quarrels with Abel and murders him, and becomes a rootless wanderer. A third son, Seth, is born to Adam; Seth’s eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the only righteous man in a corrupt world.
Bereshit: So many conundrums!
Rashi, the master of p’shat – a simple straight-forward meaning on text – challenges that they typical reading of Bereshit as a Creation chronology is incorrect; Rashi says this usage of “reishit” demands an explanation. “This verse is nothing if not mysterious. Expound – explain me.” He points out the waters already existed, for example.
He teaches us: “In the beginning”, describes not the clarities of origin and cause, but the potentialities of purpose.”
Our Sages agree and apply the Rabbinic principle that there is no chronology on Torah.
How do we understand the Creation of the first humans – who were made in the image of Elohim (plural)? Is God Echad, One – how do we read the name Elohim? God’s name changes within the first two chapters to Adonai Elohim – how do we understand these namings.
Connect the creation of the world with standing at Sinai.
Anokhi meets anokhi.
The “I’ness”Anokhi of God, of Creation hears the anokhi “I’ness”of the humans standing at Sinai, who say, “na’asehv’nishma“– “we will do, we will make the world.” So from this perspective, Israel (also) creates the world, simply by finding their place and standing at Sinai. The giving of the Torah is commonly referred to as ma’amad har Sinai – the standing at Sinai. How does our own anokhi within, stand and meet the One who is Anokhi?
Omed – What does it mean to stand? To under-stand?
Talmud makes an extraordinary observation about the paradoxes of “standing”: No ‘man’ stands on it (can rightly under-stand)the words of Torah, unless he has stumbled over them.
And then we have the angels – who argued with God at both of these moments – Bereshit when God wanted to create humans and then later at Sinai when God wanted to give the Israelites the Torah.