Parshat Bereishit

Torah Reading for Week of September 30 – October 6, 2018

“In the Beginning… Partnership”

by Rabbi Elisheva Beyer, ’06

Torah begins with the Hebrew word “Bereshit,” often translated as “In the beginning.” “Bereshit” is a mysterious word with which to begin the Torah. Grammatically it means, “In the beginning of G-d’s creating.” (Rashi). This hints that creation is ongoing – not a creation that was done just once. According to Saadia Gaon, it also means that before that specific beginning, time did not exist – so TIME was created “In the beginning.” According to some, that means what we would call today a “time-space continuum” came into being when G-d began to create.
Somehow, Torah preceded creation. The midrash puts it this way, “G-d gazed into the Torah and created the world” and it also says that Torah preceded the creation of the world. (Bereshit Rabbah 1:1). This seems like a paradox.   Our Sages reveal that Torah is essentially the blue-print of the Universe.
G-d created the heavens and the earth and tells us so through Torah. So, why did G-d create Torah? Was it to tell us what to do and how to live our lives? If the purpose of Torah were merely to give us commandments, then some would argue that Torah should start with those – the Written Torah – the laws. Yet, there is so much more to Torah. It is the basis for our living and breathing guidance from our Sages – the Oral Torah – providing direction about how to live our lives.
Torah records that the world was created through ten divine utterances saying “Let there be…(i.e. light, etc.).” All of this information was given by means of the Torah so that G-d could develop a partnership with people. How do we know this? The Sefat Emet draws that conclusion from this verse, “I have placed My words in your mouth…to plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, saying to Zion: ‘You are My People.'” (Isaiah 51:16). He unpacks the verse noting that there is are several ways to understand several key words. “Zion” may mean the people of Jerusalem or with a different pronunciation, it may be “Ziyun” meaning those outstanding and distinguished ones – essential human beings. “My People,” according to the rabbis of the Holy Zohar say, do not read “ami” My People, but read it “immi” with Me – for the “human being is a partner in the act of Creation. Talmud also tells us that we are “partners with G-d in the work of creation.” (Shabbat 10a and 199b).
We have essentially been given the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. Each day we have the opportunity to choose our path. You can choose the good. You can choose to learn or to be different or to find transformation in this New Year of 5779. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
A story is told by Dr. Ben-Shachar in his book, “Choose the Life You Want” about a mother who comes to Ghandi who complains that her son is eating too much sugar. He tells her to come back in a month. She brings him back and complains again. Ghandi tells him, “Don’t eat so much sugar.” She asked why he waited a month. Ghandi said, “Because last month, I too was eating too much sugar.”
If we want a happier family, we need to work on our happiness. If we want a more moral workplace, we need to be a role model for that. If we want passionate students, we must be passionate teachers. Cultivate in ourselves the qualities we want to see. Understand that you have a right to choose your path and be in partnership with the Life of the Worlds. So, G-d willing may we choose wisely.