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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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).

Read More
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?

Read More
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.”

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
To Begin Again

To Begin Again

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.

Read More
Back to the Beginning

Back to the Beginning

Oct 9, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bereishit

Back to the beginning! Without losing a step, we move from the death of Moses back to the story of creation. Israel circles the Torah much as the earth does the sun, with Simhat Torah to mark the moment when one cycle ends and the next begins. From its light we draw our wisdom, our identity, our cohesion as a people. To hear it read weekly in the synagogue is to keep the experience of Sinai alive. But we need to prepare ourselves or else the power of the event will elude us. Hence, the study of the parasha should be the religious curriculum of our week.

Read More
The Profundity of Genesis

The Profundity of Genesis

Oct 1, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bereishit

The Torah’s story of creation is not intended as a scientific treatise, worthy of equal time with Darwin’s theory of evolution in the curriculum of our public schools. The notes it strikes in its sparse and majestic narrative offer us an orientation to the Torah’s entire religious worldview and value system. Creation is taken up first not because the subject has chronological priority but rather to ground basic religious beliefs in the very nature of things. And I would argue that their power is quite independent of the scientific context in which they were first enunciated.

Read More