Torah Weekly

For the week ending 25 October 2008 / 26 Tishri 5769

Parshat Bereishet

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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In the beginning, G-d creates the entire universe, including time itself, out of nothingness. This process of creation continues for six days. On the seventh day, G-d rests, bringing into existence the spiritual universe of Shabbos, which returns to us every seven days. Adam and Chava - the Human pair - are placed in the Garden of Eden. Chava is enticed by the serpent to eat from the forbidden fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil," and in turn gives the fruit to Adam. By absorbing "sin," Adam and Chava render themselves incapable of remaining in the spiritual paradise of Eden and are banished. Death and hard work (both physical and spiritual) now enter the world, together with pain in childbirth. Now begins the struggle to correct the sin of Adam and Chava, which will be the main subject of world history. Cain and Hevel, the first two children of Adam and Chava, bring offerings to G-d. Hevel gives the finest of his flock, and his offering is accepted, but Cain gives inferior produce and his offering is rejected. In the ensuing quarrel, Cain kills Hevel and is condemned to wander the earth. The Torah traces the genealogy of the other children of Adam and Chava, and the descendants of Cain until the birth of Noach. After the death of Sheis, Mankind descends into evil, and G-d decides that He will blot out man in a flood which will deluge the world. However, one man, Noach, finds favor with G-d.


Making The Trains Run On Time

“G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because on it He abstained from all His work, which G-d created to make.” (2:3)

Taking a taxi home we turned a corner and came upon what seemed like the mother of all Jerusalem traffic jams. Nothing moved. Not an inch. What was it? A burst water main? A demonstration? A visiting dignitary?

I climbed out of the cab and peered into the distance. What was that thing? It looked like something out of a fifties sci-fi movie: “It Came From Denton High!

There, swirling in mists of dry ice was the strangest vehicle you could imagine. Underneath it all was something that looked suspiciously like a Ford Transit, but from every angle possible could be seen flashing colored lights and projectors, twirling silver globes catching the multicolored lights, and atop the whole caboodle a huge golden crown about two and a half meters wide. The music that was blaring from this thing had enough high-end frequencies to part your hair at ten feet.

This beast was no fugitive float from a New Orleans Mardi Gras procession. It was the way we Jews greet a newly completed Torah scroll on its way to its new home.

And what a homecoming! The streets were full of people dancing around the Torah scroll underneath a chupa (wedding canopy). In front of the float were about 50 Jerusalem children, each with a flaming torch in his hand. (Try getting that one past the NY Fire Dept.!)

I gazed at this wonderful sight and thought to myself “Only in Israel…”

Apparently it was said of Benito Mussolini, the ruthless dictator of Italy in the thirties and forties, “at least he made the trains run on time.” Whether it was ever said of Mussolini or not is moot; the fact is that the remark reveals a fundamental facet of Fascism — efficiency as an end in itself.

In a world where there is no belief in G-d, and thus bereft of a higher purpose, in a world where ultimately there is nowhere to go, all that is left is to get there as efficiently as possible.

In direct contradiction to this worldview stands Shabbat.

Shabbat is our weekly testimony that the world is going somewhere; that things are important and efficiency is never an end in itself.

In Jerusalem, the buses can be very far from on time; the traffic can be held up for half and hour; and it’s all to demonstrate that there is something in this world more than efficiency. It’s called purpose.

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