Parashat Bereshit / פרשת בראשית
Torah Portion: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

This week we celebrate the holy day of Shemini Atzeret, the biblically ordained “eighth day of assembly” that comes immediately on the heals of the Sukkot, the “festival of booths.” In Israel and in Reform and Reconstructionist communities in the diaspora (outside of Israel), Shemini Atzeret and the rabbinic holiday of Simchat Torah are celebrated concurrently. In Conservative and Orthodox communities in the diaspora, Shemini Atzeret is celebrated on Thursday this year, and Simchat Torah is celebrated on Friday. Learn more about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Shemini_AtzeretSimchat_Torah.shtml.

Also this week, we read the very first parasha (Torah portion) of the Torah – Genesis or Bereishit. My Hebrew teacher in rabbinical school, Dr. David Golomb, once suggested that we read the word bereishit not as “in the beginning” but as “beginning-ly.” I’ve always found this reading of bereishit to be especially meaningful. To me it suggests that the act of creation was something that God intended to be an ongoing process, a process in which humanity would participate once the basics of creation were already in place. God started us off and continues to be involved in creation, but God did not complete the task. God toiled, the Torah teaches, for six days and rested on the seventh. On the next day, though, we got in on the action as God’s agents in the world, working with the forces of nature that were the fruits of God’s earlier labors in order to be good stewards of the natural world and to make the world a peaceful place for all — humans and non-humans — to inhabit. I think we still have quite a bit of work to do!

There is much to learn in Parashat Bereishit. To find out what our sages have been saying throughout the millennia, check out http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Weekly_Torah_Portion/bereishit_index.shtml.

Chag Sameach. Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dan

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