Summary: Bereishith is the first parasha in the Book of Genesis. It’s opening chapter describes the first 6 of the 7 days of G-d’s Creation. Chapter 2 introduces Shabbat, describing human innocence, G-d’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, and the creation of Adam’s helpmate Eve. Chapter 3 introduces the beguiling serpent, disobedience, a loss of innocence and subsequent banishment from Eden.
Bereishith Chapter 4 identifies the first offspring, Cain & Abel – describing the first fratricide, detailing the birth of the next 7 generations and the emergence of life in the first cities. Chapter 5 lists the ‘Generations of Man’ – lifespans of the 10 generations from Adam until Noah. Chapter 6 reveals the people’s tendency toward corruption and G-d’s regret in having created mankind.
Comment: At the end of Debarim, Moshe ascended Mt Nabo bringing his mission as leader of Bnei Yisrael to a bittersweet end – a career Moshe had only reluctantly accepted 40 years earlier at the Burning Bush. Moshe’s great legacy was in bringing the Torah down from Sinai and teaching it to Bnei Yisrael. His immortality was confirmed through the commitment and investment into spiritual capital.
Nor was his achievement marred by failure to enter the land of Cana’an. In his last words to the Jewish people, Moshe realised no single leader can complete everything, that our lives are precious because they’re finite – we can each only accomplish a fixed amount.
That we immediately begin again with Bereishith is an act of continuity – the maturity of seeing life with all its blemishes from the eye’s of our prophets then re-viewing it from a point of pristine innocence.
While chapter one shows the ideal, from chapter two of Genesis man’s relationship with G-d regrettably betrays his lack of appreciation. The Torah doesn’t tell us ‘why G-d decided to create the world and its inhabitants’. Simply, that when G-d did, each step was deemed ‘good’. As the recipients of life, our role initially was to give thanks.
In contrast, the sketches of sinful behaviour – Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel – foretell the human penchant for harm; to ourselves and to one another. In a world with more than 7 billion people, lack of appreciation, deceit and murder are all too common place. But the root can be found in these early passages.
While Adam hid from G-d in embarrassment of his sin, Cain rebelled, denying it. Lemekh only a few generations later boasted of killing Cain. When one loses connection with G-d, our perspective shifts to personal desires. Sin no longer has the ability to instruct us how we’ve gone wrong.
Human life is defined by time and movement, the cessation of either leads to death.Bereishith shows the creative G-d making something from nothing, separating and dividing, forming and moving. As created beings our highest aspiration is to be like G-d.
May we learn to distinguish between spiritual movement and stagnation, between using time in life-affirming rather than life-denying ways, and may we all be granted opportunity to act and live according to the Divine essence within each of us.[For those who requested it, a .pdf copy of Mashiach Kelaty’s Elul List for Spiritual Improvement can be found here.]