Parashat Bereshit 29 Tishrei 5781
Last week we celebrated Simchat Torah… one of the most joyous holidays on our calendar but this year we were not able to enjoy it in person as a congregation when we traditionally dance with the Torah scrolls for the joy that it represents for us to have this magnificent and irreplaceable instrument that our Creator has given us to help us in our walk through life the entire year.
The Torah is the guide for us to get closer to the Creator. It should influence the behavior and character of the one who studies it. There is a very beautiful phrase that says: “the person may possess wisdom, but the Torah possesses the person.” if the Torah does not transform the person who studies it, then their study becomes purely secular information.
The last words of the Torah in Devarim tell us about all that Moses did “before the eyes of all Israel” and the link is now made here in Bereshit Sefer, the book of Genesis, with the creation account. It gives us a foreshadowing of the important role that Israel will play before the nations…the great role of Israel in the created world. This link resembles a spiral reminding us that life is a cycle and our Torah study should be done this way, in ascending circles, like when we are inserting a screw into wood in circular movements; the screw enters the wood in a circular way and more deeply with each rotation.
Today we begin our study of the Torah in Bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית) as in previous years, and hopefully at a higher and / or deeper level because we have already studied these writings before and we have had the opportunity in this past year and in previous ones, to apply them to our daily lives. This is what true learning brings us because one thing is theory and the other is practice.
As always, there are many things we can learn from this parashah. However, today I’d like to focus on the first verse more than on any other… “In beginning, Elohim created בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1: 1) ” We could ask ourselves, why, if the Torah is our manual which the Creator has given us to live by, does it not begin with a precept or a mitzvah -commandment. Although the Torah is our guide to life, it is not a compendium of mitzvot and precepts, since we also find within it, many stories of events that are teachings that the Eternal gives us. The Torah begins by saying that, “In beginning, Elohim created the Heavens and the Earth” this is to exalt the role of God as the Adon Olam אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם, the Master of the universe… this speaks to us of the sovereignty of God. This sovereignty refers to His ability to exercise His will and supremacy. The Creator has unlimited power to execute what He has resolved. Our Elohim wants to make it clear that He is the Creator of everything that exists, the Bore Olam, who created everything from nothing, which is clearly important for us in order to understand everything that is presented to us in the Scriptures. That is, our Creator is putting things into context for us and then guiding us toward being obedient to His Commandments.
Understanding that God is sovereign and that there is no other, greater than Him, because there was nothing before Him in the beginning and that He is eternal and has always been. This helps us understand why He does not need to ask anyone for permission to act and do as He decides, and this shows us a way out of idolatry because there is no other god like Him or outside of Him.
The creation account that we find here does not necessarily allude to an order, in a literal sense. The intention of the Torah is not to present events chronologically, but to give us instructions and / or teachings and principles to apply to our daily lives. This is also an affirmation of the infinite power of the Creator. How is it possible, for example, that He created light on the first day and then on the fourth, He created the sun? Or creating the days before creating the sun, seeing that the days and nights are determined by the sunrise and sunset. They are teachings that the Creator gives us of his immense power. He doesn’t need anything to create. He created everything from nothing and how He wanted it because He is not limited by anything.
According to our sages, in this first verse, the Almighty says that the heavens came first and then the Earth, referring to the spiritual preceding the material. In the spirit/matter interaction, the main things are spiritual values, those that give real meaning to our existence. In this way, the Torah encompasses all aspects of our living, beginning with the spiritual, without forgetting the physical.
The first commandment, which the LORD later gives to the people of Israel at Sinai, says: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt …” This commandment includes the requirement to believe in God as the Creator of everything.
In the same way, in the second commandment, He tells us “you will not have other gods before Me … because I am the LORD your God …” It is as if He were saying: “no other god created the world with me”. Both speak in the first person and of who God is and His sovereignty in the world. As in Bereshit 1: 1 when it says: “In beginning ELOHIM created …”, it can be understood as the name (or title) of the Creator that denotes His might, greatness … again, to show us how amazing and great, creation is.
The fact that He created what exists out of nothing tells us that He is the owner of everything that exists and that everything has its origin in Him and in Him everything subsists. The fact of not appreciating Adonai as Absolute removes the desire in man to serve him and fulfill the Torah.
He gave beginning to time, space, the cosmos, matter, vegetation, every living being, man… everything… because He had a purpose in doing so. This makes him Sovereign because He did everything with a purpose and directs everything so that those purposes can be carried out.
The first principle is to be aware that there is a first cause, a Being whose existence is absolute. He exists simply because He exists. It is inconceivable that He does not exist. His existence has no origin. There is no one to hold or maintain it. In contrast, everything else that exists depends upon His existence.
Man, created with free will, is the wonderful creation of God because it is man who must decide to obey God or not. Man is the one who can elevate the sense of creation when He exalts God and honors Him with his obedience. Our Creator knew this when He created man and it says here that “He saw it was VERY GOOD” טוֹב מְאֹד (Gen. 1:31). Earlier, He had said that it was good, but now He expresses the greatness of man who was created in the image and likeness of the Bore Olam. As humans, Adonai created us in a marvellous way above the rest of creation, with intellect, conscience, and free will. Therefore, we have been granted the great privilege of being able to have a relationship with Him, which gives us great responsibility.
The sages of the Talmud say that man is loved by God because he was created in His image and likeness. BARUCH HASHEM! This understanding that man was created by God with a purpose that can only be understood in light of the Torah and is what gives meaning to human life. Man can only be happy when he receives enlightenment towards the path that he must follow to find his purpose in life and this revelation is in the Torah.
If a person is not aware of the absolute reality of the Bore Olam, then for him, the Torah with its absolute values, has no validity. The sages teach us that in order for man to connect with the Creator, he must serve Him and find the revelation (in the sense of meaning) of the Torah. It is man’s duty to achieve the goal of creation by correcting himself.
Another important point in this parashah is that although the commandment to keep Shabbat comes to us a long time later, here we can see how the Creator is bringing us, from the beginning, the spiritual experience of what it means for us as the people of Israel to keep the day of rest (Gen. 2: 2-3). Significant value in the process of creation is given to the Shabbat. The last day of the week, the Sabbath is constantly associated with the creation of the world.
Along with the creation story, we find in this parashah, elements which are important in our lives today, such as the failure of Adam and Eve, man’s mortality and their need to do hard work, both physical and spiritual, to labor with pain, etc.; all indicate the path to follow in order to achieve a connection with the Creator. This hard work of man to have a good relationship with his Creator will, from now on, be the path that man must follow through history to live a happy life.
The statement that man was created in the image and likeness of God does not imply in any way that man is equal to his Creator, but that he has attributes that were transferred to him by God when He breathed into man the breath of life, His Ruach. God created the universe out of nothing, and man can “re-create” (the idea is to create again) his life from what he finds in the world that was already Divinely created.
To exalt the fact that man is special to the Creator, the psalmist says in Psalms 8: 4-5: “What is man that you are mindful of him? Or the mortal being so that you take care of him? You created him little lower than the angels and you crowned him with glory and honor”. At the same time, this means that when someone destroys any human being, he is challenging God Himself and thus destroying all humanity, but when someone rescues a human being, he exalts the Creator and rescues all humanity.
The purpose of creation is for man to have a good relationship with his Creator and to develop as a person. Both man and nature were created by an intentional Being. The probability that this happened by chance is infinitesimal. That is, it is easier to believe that the Almighty is the Bore Olam, the Creator of the Universe, than not to believe it.
Finally, accepting the sovereignty of the Creator will help us receive and accept the Torah as our guiding light so that we can live fully and find the Bore Olam’s purpose for us and thus be able to contribute to Tikkun Olam, the Healing of the world. Man, his development and his relationship with the Master of the Universe is the ultimate purpose of creation.
Finally, there is a simple but revealing story about a man who asked Rabbi Akiva: “Who created the world?”
“The Bore Olam”, Akiva replied.
“Prove it”, the man told him.
Akiva replied, “Come back tomorrow”.
When the man returned the next day, Akiva asked him: “What are you wearing”?
“Who made it?”
“I do not believe you. Prove it,” Akiva demanded.
“That’s ridiculous. Do you not realize from the fabric and the design that a weaver made it?” said the man.
“And you, don’t you realize that the Bore Olam created the world?” Akiva replied. And the man left.
Each creature constitutes evidence that the Bore Olam is the Creator of everything; He is the Boré Olam.
Shabbat Shalom!!! By Alejandro Alvarado