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Parashat Bereshit - 5777

Dear friends,

This Shabbat we begin anew the cycle of Torah Readings, starting with the first Parasha in the Torah, Bereshit, in the Beginning.

So much has been written about this Parasha, and especially about the first verse, and even the first three words, 'Bereshit Barah Elohim' - 'At the beginning G-d created'. What was the universe like before G-d created what we have today? Can we imagine G-d without a universe?

Ever since humans came into being, we've always wondered about our world and what exists beyond. Our generation has explored farther than ever before, reaching the moon and now heading to Mars. But even after traveling such great distances, we realize that we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. Were it possible for a person to live a thousand years, he/she will not have enough time to explore the vast, infinite reaches of space.

As we start studying the Torah again, we can ask, "What is the purpose of starting with the creation story? Would it make us more likely to have faith in G-d, knowing that He is the creator of all? If the Torah is a book of teaching Mitzvot and obeying G-d's commandments, would we not have the same faith in G-d if the first chapter dealt with Mitzvot?"

The questions and answers are too innumerable to discuss in a short D'var Torah. Many religious commentators and Bible scholars of all ages have discussed Bereshit. I would like to share with you the most important lessons that we find in this Parasha.

Humans are responsible for the preservation of the universe. A beautiful Midrash illustrates this point as follows: Upon creating man, G-d brought Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden and said to them: "Look at this beautiful world I created for you. Make sure you do not destroy it, because there are none others."

G-d created all kinds of living creatures but only one human being to teach us racial equality, so no one can ever say: "My ancestors were better than yours." We are all from the same human that G-d created.

When G-d asks Cain, "Ey Hevel Ahicha?" - "Where is Abel your brother?" And Cain answers, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" What a powerful message that, indeed, we are our brothers' keepers. If we don't feel that way, then G-d's answer to Cain: "What have you done? Hark, your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!" The world seems to be helpless in stopping the killings of thousands of civilians, men, women and children, whether in Syria or in the various civil wars that are going on around the world. Do we hear that cry? Everyone has been created in the image of G-d. And so many are destroyed every day.

Why does the Torah begin with the creation story? In this story there are already fundamental teachings that would make the world a better place for all. As it relates to Israel, here is a beautiful and contemporary answer given by our great Bible commentator Rashi. He explains that G-d knew that, in the future, there would be nations who would question the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. G-d will say to them: "I created the entire universe and I decided to give that Land to the Jewish people." How true it is. We have all Israel's neighbors plus many other countries who question and resent the Jewish presence in that tiny strip of land called Israel. We have UNESCO - a gang of countries from the UN - who are trying to erase any historical Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

As we begin the study of Torah again, remember how relevant it is or can be in our life today.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram