Rachael’s Thoughts on parashat Bereishit
We have danced, celebrated, fasted, and prayed for weeks, as we entered the High Holidays, moved through them, and now truly begin our Jewish new year. This Shabbat, we begin reading the Torah again with the first chapters of Genesis, parashat Bereishit.
We read of the beginnings of the universe, the world as we know it, and the human condition. Einstein believed that the universe is not a defined, static thing, but that it continues to expand. Our Sages taught us that creation renews itself every day, and that the creative elements God embedded into the universe will always renew. Our worlds of science and faith are both telling us that nothing around us stands still – everything moves toward growth and expansion.
With that in mind, we do not read the book of Genesis again, we read it anew. It has new things to tell us, unique perspectives we haven’t heard before. The entire Torah begins with the word ‘Bereishit’ – ‘in the beginning’. It begins with the letter ‘b’ (bet), the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Our commentaries point out that it would be more appropriate to begin the Torah with the first letter, ‘a’ (aleph). One reason is to show that there is always something more to know, something that pre-exists, something connected with ‘a’ (aleph) that is hidden and inviting us to explore. But the Torah must begin with the second letter because we know we are entering a process that is already moving forward.
Though we are careful not to read Torah searching for endings – we engage with Torah as we search for beginnings. Each person finds their unique starting place, knowing there is so much that exists before them – before anything they recognize. The goal is not to unlock a mystery of the past, it is to courageously step in and enter the expansion.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.