Weekly Reading Insights:
Bereishit 5780

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Bereishit, 27 Tishrei 5780/Oct. 26

Torah: Genesis 1:1-6:8; Haftorah: Isaiah. 42:5-43:10 (begins with reference to Creation)

Shabbat Mevorchim
- Blessing the New Month

Bereishit is the 1st Reading out of 12 in Genesis and it contains 7235 letters, in 1931 words, in 146 verses

The Torah opens with G-d's creation of the world in six days - plus Shabbos. G-d planted a garden in Eden, with the Tree of Life in the middle, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. G-d told Adam that he may eat from every tree except for the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent persuaded Eve to eat from the tree, and she gave some of its fruit to Adam. G-d punished each of the three, then clothed Adam and Eve, and banished them from Eden. Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel, and subsequently Eve gave birth to Seth. The Torah then lists the ten generations from Adam to Noah. When Noah was 500 years old, he fathered Shem, Ham and Yapheth. G-d then decided that man should live only to 120. G-d saw that the world was evil, and decided to obliterate it, except for Noah and his family

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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There is a Chassidic saying that one's behavior on Shabbat Bereishit affects the entire coming year. There are so many important special Jewish days each year, so many Torah portions with important commandments or critical messages communicated. What is so unique about Shabbat Bereishit?

The first verse of Genesis says, "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth." Since G-d created the universe from absolutely nothing, He needs to be constantly maintaining it in existence. Therefore, the universe is being re-created each and every instant! Nothing can exist without G-d's constant and consistent involvement. This continuous renewal of creation is the innovation of the six days of creation. And if all of creation is constantly renewed, then we, too, are also always being recreated from nothing and naught. Our personal existence is only because G-d constantly recreates us. Our true existence is totally and irrevocably pure G-dliness.

When a person realizes that his entire existence is G-dliness, it can change both his perspective and priorities. According to the above, we can now understand the importance of Shabbat Bereishit. The very first verse of the Torah, and what is deduced from it is the foundation of a person's relationship to G-d for the entire year.

How will it work? As I stand on the eve of Shabbat Bereishit, clear that besides my blatantly Jewish stuff, I also want every other part of my life to reflect that it is based in G-dliness. However, I find that everywhere I turn the physical world is setting up difficult obstacles. The lesson of Bereishit is to recall that the world does not exist independently at all, that G-d is constantly recreating it. G-d is 'saying' over and over again, 'Let there be light!' so light comes into being. So too for every detail of creation. The Zohar writes how G-d uses the Torah as the blueprint for creation (Trumah, 161a)! Therefore, it is impossible for any part of the world can be an obstacle to our goal, since everything is Torah. Dealing with these seeming obstacles is part of our mission. 'Jewish Judo', so to speak. Our opponents attack is the secret of our success.

If everything is Torah, then saying a Psalm, giving charity, contemplating or sharing a Torah idea is going to change the world and our individual lives for the better. This is the true inner dimension of the first verse of the Torah, that G-d created 'the heavens and the earth': Doing G-dly things is intrinsic to and affects the creation. Putting G-d and His commandments first will never detract from our lives; it will only help us fulfill our purpose, spiritually and physically. This is what the saying, 'Shabbat Bereishit affects the entire coming year' means. We must advance our spiritual lives, and this will help us push away the worries that nag us day and night about our physical needs, our children, our health and our livelihood.

When a person remembers that everything comes from G-d every instant, there is no place to worry since he knows that 'No bad comes from Him" (Eicha 3/28); G-d is all good. When a person integrates this idea into his day-to-day life, he will be able to see everything is good, even with his physical eye. (Adapted from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Likutei Sichos, chapter 1, page 1)

The Baal Shem Tov taught: 'Bereishit'- 'in the beginning'-signifies the head and beginning of a person's connection to G-d. 'Bara Elokim'-actually means 'created G-d' (see Chulin 43)-since we have to reveal G-dliness. 'Et hashamayim v'et ha'aretz'-the heavens and in the earth-since G-d is everywhere. The primary service of man to his Creator is to reveal
G-dliness hidden in the world (even the Hebrew word 'olam'- world-is from the root word, 'helem'-hidden.)

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.

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