Torah Portion  Bereishit Handout
Genesis 1:1 - 6:8  

The Beginning of What?          

The Hebrew Bible begins in the beginning. But, the beginning of what?

The Text begins: “In the beginning, God created…”Some think this is our creation myth. Others think this is a religious person’s account of how the universe was physically created.

 I don’t want to argue with either side of that dispute. Rather, I want to suggest that something more fundamental is going on here.

Let’s start with a more accurate translation of these first words: “At the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth,” God created light (which - interestingly - precedes the sun and moon), and soon thereafter created humankind.

In other words, after creating the world, God creates the light that will always remind us of the Divine presence, and then creates man and woman. We see very quickly that we are created in God’s image, that we are cared for by God, and that we are expected to live true to God’s ways.

So, just a few verses in, God creates human beings who’s story takes up much Divine attention for the rest of the Text.

The rabbis pictured this beautifully when they asked us simply to look at the very first letter of the Bible - the Hebrew letter, bet. This letter is closed on all sides but one. It is wide open to all the text that follows from the beginning, just as we must live, fully attentive to the future and mindful of God’s hopes for us.


We read in Genesis about the story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God admonishes Adam not to eat the fruit of this tree, yet Adam and Eve do so. God banishes them.

Whats up? Whats wrong with eating the fruit of this tree? After all, God made us in the Divine image. God has this knowledge. Why shouldnt we strive to be like God?

We are indeed created in God’s image. But, our faith pushes us away from living as if we were God. being created in Gods image means for us - instead  - living as God expects.

We are given the power to choose, but it is Gods hope that we choose to live with duty to the Divine and love of our fellows. This is out path, not choosing against God through out own will and desire, as reflected in the choice to eat the fruit of this tree.

Despite our many blessings, humankind persists in making the willful choice. It started up again with Cain and continues to the present day, in all times, in all spaces.

Whether Jew, Christian, or Muslim - whether philosopher, scientist, or citizen - each of us, in our own way, must get to the bottom - however much it challenges us - of why we’re drawn to eat of the exotic fruit that promises power but invariability leads to thorn and thistle.

Torah Portion  Bereishit                     Genesis 1:1 - 6:8  

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