Is the World a Mirror?

Is the World a Mirror?

Oct 1, 2021 By Dianne Cohler-Esses | Commentary | Bereishit

The God of the Torah is driven by loneliness, by a desire to be in relationship with humanity and to God’s chosen people, Israel. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says (quoted by Michael Lerner in his book Jewish Renewal), “God’s dream is not to be alone, but to have humankind as a partner in the drama of continuous creation” (vi). Out of a great loneliness God emerges from royal solitude to create a world and within it humanity as a partner for God.

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Beginning, Rebuilding

Beginning, Rebuilding

Oct 16, 2020 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Bereishit

Like millions of American children in the 1970s, I tuned in weekly to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The opening sequence showed skiers gracefully racing down a mountain, and then spectacularly wiping out while the narrator promised viewers “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Something tragic and true was contained in this message. The possibility of calamity makes moments of triumph precious and worth pursuing.

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Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Oct 25, 2019 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Bereishit

Authored together with Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all its inhabitants. God founded it upon the oceans and set it on the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

As the Jewish community once more begins its annual reading of the Torah, and as we recount the grandeur of God’s creation, we focus on God’s charge to newly created humanity: “The Lord God took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to serve and protect it.” (Gen. 2:15, authors’ translations).

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Here We Go Again!

Here We Go Again!

Oct 5, 2018 By Stephen P. Garfinkel | Commentary | Bereishit

What?! Starting Genesis again? We read it last fall. And we read it the year before that, and the year before that. How many times do we need to hear, “In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth” (or “When God began to create . . .,” or the even better known, but less accurate, translation, “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth . . .”)? Really, don’t we already know that the first chapter of the Torah announces to all readers and listeners that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day?

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A Year Without Second Chances

A Year Without Second Chances

Oct 11, 2017 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Bereishit

One of the greatest gifts that Judaism offers its adherents is multiple opportunities for starting over. The first ten days of the New Year are devoted to teshuvah: repentance, renewal, return to one’s best self and to God. On Simhat Torah, the final day of the fall holiday season, we read the last words in the Torah and then without pause scroll back to the very first word, bereishit, “in the beginning.”

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Reading and Rereading

Reading and Rereading

Oct 28, 2016 By Avi Garelick | Commentary | Bereishit

There’s a good quip about the Jewish people: we’re the longest running book club on the planet. This week, in synagogues and study halls across the world, Jews are rolling the scroll of the Torah back to the beginning and starting again.. This is a different kind of reading than we do in other spheres of our lives. We read books, articles, and stories at specific times. They could be life-changing—we might return to those texts and re-read them—or they could quickly be forgotten. Some people will do that more than once, at which point they have become either fans or scholars, giving those texts a place of privilege in the formation of their individual identity.

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Aleph: The First Breath

Aleph: The First Breath

Oct 28, 2016 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Bereishit

By Joshua Hooper (DS ’17)

My artwork is inspired by the opening verses of Bereishit, when God’s first breath calls forth light (יהי אור) out of the darkness (Gen. 1:3). This holy light (shown in blue) is timeless—the first manifestation of God’s will. The Aleph is depicted as emerging out of the darkness surrounding it while the holy light is concealed within it. The essence of this light radiates outwards (towards the lower worlds, which are expressed by the three colors that surround the Aleph’s form). The light transcends all levels of Creation.

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The Context of Violence

The Context of Violence

Oct 9, 2015 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Bereishit

This past week we were again confronted with horrific acts of violence across the globe, followed by a host of attempts to explain why and what should be done. Over centuries, the story of Cain and Abel became a central text through which this reality of violence was explored: how do we account for violence in our world? Can we control our rage, or are we doomed to act on our impulses? With its paucity of detail and conspicuous narrative lacunae, Bereishit’s description of the first murder, when Cain killed Abel, inspired countless visual artists—from the Old Masters to modern expressionists—to respond creatively to these questions. 

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An Anthology of Beginnings

An Anthology of Beginnings

Oct 9, 2015 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Bereishit

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” These opening words of the Torah in most translations are clear, straightforward, and well known. But they don’t render the Hebrew original correctly. As Rashi already pointed out, the first verse of the Torah is not, by itself, a grammatical sentence. Instead, it is part of a longer sentence that continues through the end of verse three. 

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Mortals and Immortals

Mortals and Immortals

Oct 17, 2014 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Bereishit

We human beings tend not to see something that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions, including when we read the Torah.

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Minding Our Words

Minding Our Words

Oct 17, 2014 By Anne Lapidus Lerner | Commentary | Bereishit

On Simhat Torah, we complete the reading of the humash—all 79,796 Hebrew words of it—and when we’re done, what do we do? We roll it up to the very beginning and start to read it all over again. Words, words, words. Devarim (Deuteronomy)—which, of course, means “words”—ends with Moses’s death after the conclusion of his lengthy final oration; Bereishit opens with God demonstrating the power of words by creating the world with them.

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Mastery = Harmony

Mastery = Harmony

Sep 22, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

This coming Shabbat, we return to the beginning of Torah with Parashat Bereishit.

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Bereishit with a Capital Bet

Bereishit with a Capital Bet

Sep 22, 2013 By David Marcus | Commentary | Bereishit

With this week’s parashah, we once again commence the cycle of reading the Torah from the first chapter of Genesis, which begins with the Hebrew word bereishit.

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The Myths of Creation

The Myths of Creation

Oct 12, 2012 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

With the celebration of this coming Shabbat, we return to the beginning—specifically, to the narrative of Creation.

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Who’s the Hero and Who’s the Villain?

Who’s the Hero and Who’s the Villain?

Oct 10, 2012 By Richard Kalmin | Commentary | Bereishit

To state things up front, my claim is that Adam and Eve did not just undergo a fall, but also a significant rise; to make that claim, I’m going to argue that two of the main characters, the snake and God, have often been misunderstood. The snake has gotten a bum rap, and God has usually gotten off much too easily.

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Reason Versus Faith

Reason Versus Faith

Oct 22, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Bereishit

If the ancients worried to prove God’s existence, the challenge of Darwinian evolution posed an even greater threat: counterevidence to the biblical account of Creation. In the postmodern era, we Jews-in-the-center find ourselves oddly caught in the middle of a debate portrayed in the news media as between those who insist literally on the biblical account and those who reject it altogether.

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Creation and Good Health

Creation and Good Health

Oct 22, 2011 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit | Simhat Torah

With this week’s celebration of Simhat Torah and Shabbat Bereishit, we return to the very beginning of Torah as we read anew the narratives of Creation, the Garden of Eden, and the tragedy of Cain and Abel.

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The Universal and Particular Nature of Creation

The Universal and Particular Nature of Creation

Oct 22, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Bereishit

Shortly after Rosh Hashanah this year, Jewish extremists torched a mosque in an Arab-Israeli village in the Galilee, damaging the building and destroying its holy books. Two days later, a rabbinic statement condemning this desecration of a house of worship on Israeli soil garnered the signatures of more than a thousand rabbis of all denominations within 36 hours of the document’s publication. One of my former JTS classmates, however, explained with great disappointment why he did not add his name to this effort.

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Adam’s Fear of a Darkening World

Adam’s Fear of a Darkening World

Oct 2, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Bereishit

The shock of the unexpected, the fear of change, the guilt at having done something irreversible: feelings we know all too well. When things go badly, our gut response is often, “Why me?” We then probe our actions to discover the trigger that caused it all, and bemoan our fate with those closest to us. What can the Torah teach us about how to deal with these feelings through the story of Adam?

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Mastery or Care?

Mastery or Care?

Oct 2, 2010 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bereishit

This coming Shabbat, we return to the beginning of the Torah with Parashat Bereishit.

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