Torah Weekly

For the week ending 13 October 2012 / 26 Tishri 5773

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.



“In the beginning of G-D’s creating the heavens and the earth...” (1:1)

You drive up to your dream home. It’s been two years in the planning, and three to build it. You usher your guests up to the top of the west wing and proudly fling open the doors to the guest suite. The doors bang against their stops. Then a small shudder shakes the house. What sounds like a distant groan starts to get louder and louder until before your eyes the entire west wing parts company with the house and falls away, crashing to the ground like some slow-motion movie. You and your guests are left wide-eyed in horror and disbelief, gazing into fifty feet of nothingness two inches from the ends of your toes.

The Torah is the blueprint of the world. Just as a builder takes great pains to study the blueprint of a house before a single bulldozer raises its claws in earnest; just as he measures and calculates and evaluates, slide-rule and calculator at the ready, so too G-d creates the world from His blueprint — the Torah.

It stands to reason therefore, that a Sefer Torah that lacks even one letter is pasul (invalid). For just as one missing line in the plans of a building may lead to the west wing crashing into ruins in front of your eyes, so too one letter missing from a Sefer Torah is as though vast tracts of the universe have been erased.

  • Source: Based on the Chafetz Chaim

First And Last

“In the beginning...” (1:1)

Beginnings. And endings. The beginning has a quality that the end does not possess, and the end has that which the beginning lacks.

Beginning has its strength in quality, but it is weak in quantity. The beginning of something is its source, its root, its central point. It is the powerhouse of its strength, the wellspring of its life-force.

On the other hand, ending is strong in quantity, in size, in extent, but it is weak in quality. The end of something represents its maximum span, its fullest extrusion into the physical world — its greatest presence, its most developed incarnation.

However its greatest extent is also the weakest expression of its essence. The leaves of a tree may define its ultimate span, but they are also the weakest point of its life-force. The roots, on the other hand, may be hidden, but they contain its very essence.

The greatness of an empire is evaluated by its furthest outpost, but it is also there that it is at its weakest, with its lines of communication at full stretch.

This is all true in the physical world. But on the spiritual plane, quality and quantity are identical at the beginning as they are at the end.

This is the hallmark of Shabbat. Shabbat is the end of Creation, but it is also its first purpose and goal. “Last in action; in thought, first.”

Shabbat has to come after the six working days. And even if you get lost in the desert and forget which day of the week it is you still count six days and only then keep a day of Shabbat. Not the reverse.

But Shabbat is not just the end. Every Shabbat throughout the generations is still called “Shabbat Bereishet” — the first Shabbat — because every Shabbat contains the primal power of the first, of the root. It contains the source of blessing and the root of holiness.

  • Source: Adapted from Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in L’Torah U’l’Moadim

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