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There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions. For example in Beresheet The Sephardi have all of chapter 1 plus a bit of chapter 2 as an aliyah, while the Ashkenazi first Aliyah is Genesis 1:1-13. THEN they converge at Aliyah 6 and continue in sync for the seventh and final aliyah. I point this out because I find it interesting, delightful and slightly irritating all at the same time. Honestly, I think the take away should be humility and a very soft pluralism based on individual community standards.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Beresheet aliyah by aliyah.
BERESHEET – GENESIS 1:1-6:8
Aliyah 1 – Genesis 1:1-2:3
1:5 G-d called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. So there was evening, and there was morning, one day.
According to the Bible, the day begins at night.
Huh. That’s different from what we know today. Rather, that is different from what Modern Western Man has established for himself. Isaiah 55:8-9 come to mind when I think about this.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says HaShem.
9 “As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I really like this. This is brilliant. 5 verses in and I am questioning a core paradigm of my life and culture. Taking a look back though, this whole passage so far is a challenge to what we think we know. Today, so many people reject G-d and the Bible based on various things, but this puts it all in a challenging context.
1:1 In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.
[1:1] There is a G-d and he made everything. That means He is the owner of everything and everyone and no one can ever overcome Him.
1:2 The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the water.
[1:2] He not only made everything, He has involved Himself with it. He makes His presence known and exerts His will on His creation.
1:3 Then G-d said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
[1:3] It wasn’t that there was darkness, the reality is that there was NO light. That is UNFATHOMABLE. What would that look like?!
1:4 G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d divided the light from the darkness.
[1:4] Were light and darkness mixed? Is that possible? Did light not just push or burn away darkness like it does now? Was that a property He had to set or code into existence?
1:5 G-d called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. So there was evening, and there was morning, one day.
[1:5] Were back to this. Why would HaShem make the day start at night, but then make people to sleep at night? Are we supposed to be nocturnal? I don’t think so, that seems to go against the natural order of things and I think if He wanted His people to be THAT peculiar there would be a mitzvah about staying up all night.
1:18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and G-d saw that it was good.
[1:18] So the light and darkness were made and separated on the first day but the heavenly bodies: sun, moon stars, and though it doesn’t say this explicitly, I would presume the other planet were all created on the fourth day. As I have recently been delving into the Kent Hovind Creation Science Evangelism series, I am making a point to emphasize that this shatters the Gap Theory and Day Age narratives some people like to profess to bend the Torah to Evolution and the Big Bang. If there were no sun and moon until ages or millennia after plant life emerged on the planet, none of it would have survived to use the light from the sun at all, then the animals would have had nothing to eat and all life would have perished, making the Almighty a failed creator, Heaven forbid!
Based on my years studying the Torah through Jewish resources, I will also point out that the Torah is neither a history or science book. I believe everything recorded in the Bible is accurate, so some amazing things are stated in scripture that have only recently been proven to be true by science, but that doesn’t make it a science book. That is not the intention. The Torah, all of it, the whole megillah’s worth of 66 books is given to show redeemed people who love and fear their Creator how they can live lives pleasing to Him and fruitful to them.
1:27 So G-d created humankind in his own image;
in the image of G-d he created him:
male and female he created them.
[1:27] This sentence makes no sense from a humanistic, literalist stand point. It isn’t woke either, despite the fact that G-d is referred to as male, but then is implied to be male and female. The famous term Shekinah or Shekinah Glory is feminine and it is used to describe G-d. G-d is an infinite spirit being beyond our limited understanding and can not be put into a box. He isn’t male or female and that’s something we will have to learn to accept. Limited as we are, only a pair of us together could come close to mirroring the Ancient of Days.
1:29 Then G-d said, “Here! Throughout the whole earth I am giving you as food every seed-bearing plant and every tree with seed-bearing fruit. 30 And to every wild animal, bird in the air and creature crawling on the earth, in which there is a living soul, I am giving as food every kind of green plant.” And that is how it was.
[1:29-30] Score one for the vegans. I can see a world without death being needed to sustain it as a paradise.
2:3 G-d blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day G-d rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.
[2:3] The Sabbath is fundamental to Creation. It wasn’t a result of sin, it wasn’t given to Israel to fix a problem specific to them. G-d intended to rest on the Sabbath. It is important to Him.
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 2:4-19
2:6 Rather, a mist went up from the earth which watered the entire surface of the ground.
[2:6] This is kind of weird and wonderful. What was the source of the mist? It doesn’t sound like dew, because dew comes from the sky, where as this mist come from the ground. I wonder if pre-flood there were something like mist springs that watered the ground at some interval.
2:15 HaShem, G-d, took the person and put him in the garden of ‘Eden to cultivate and care for it.
[2:15] This mission to the Man and Woman from GEN 1:28 to subdue the earth and rule over the animals is often misunderstood. I think this verse clarifies the intention of that commandment.
2:17 “except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You are not to eat from it, because on the day that you eat from it, it will become certain that you will die.”
[2:17] This translation is from the CJB. I wonder what the JPS and KJV say because Adam and Chavah, obviously do NOT die on the day they eat the forbidden fruit.
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (KJV)
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ (JPS 1917)
17 but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.” (JPS 1985)
[2:17] I wonder if Stern modified the translation to clarify the intent and muffle the criticisms of contradictions that are lobbed against the Bible. There is a teaching in Judaism that wherever there is an apparent contradiction, there are a two or more verses that will expound on and clarify the matter, showing it to be inline with the rest of scripture. Regardless,in the face of this blatant so-called contradiction, I think there is room for us to deepen our understanding of what is going on and who the Almighty is. Why didn’t they die THAT day? In what way did they die?
Aliyah 3 – Genesis 2:20-3:21
2:23 The man-person said, “At last! This is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She is to be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 This is why a man is to leave his father and mother and stick with his wife, and they are to be one flesh.
[2:23-24] I really love the romantic aspect of this passage. There is an implication here to, that a man leaving his family and joining with his wife to start a new family is kind of the point of life. It is not entirely the point of life to be married, but I have been a son, a brother and a cousin, but nothing has quite changed and stretched and grown me like the experience of being a husband and a father. In fact, now I am thinking of the idea that Man is to subdue Creation and I am wondering if part of that, is that he is supposed to come to subdue himself and that happens best in the context of familial leadership.
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any wild animal which HaShem, G-d, had made. He said to the woman, “Did G-d really say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden, 3 but about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden G-d said, ‘You are neither to eat from it nor touch it, or you will die.’” 4The serpent said to the woman, “It is not true that you will surely die; 5 because G-d knows that on the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like G-d, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it had a pleasing appearance and that the tree was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her; and he ate.
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any wild animal which HaShem, G-d, had made. He said to the woman, “Did G-d really say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree in the garden’?”
[3:1] Why did HaShem make such a crafty creature? Was the snake supposed to be evil?
3:2 The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden,
[3:2] Did all the animals talk or was it just the serpent? Chavah seems unfazed by one talking.
3:3 but about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden G-d said, ‘You are neither to eat from it nor touch it, or you will die.’”
[3:3] It has been that Chavah added to what HaShem said and that her adding to the Word is what caused her to sin. I personally like the idea of putting one fence around the Torah. I think the key is to always acknowledge that the fence is, in fact, a fence. Why do I think a fence around the Torah is good? Two reasons, first if Chavah didn’t touch the fruit she couldn’t have eaten it. Have you ever eaten something without touching it? I think her conflating the fence with the Word is what caused her to sin. In Exodus 19, as HaShem is having Moshe prepare Israel to receive the Torah, He says tells to put a fence around Sinai so that no one transgresses and dies.
You are to set limits for the people all around; and say, ‘Be careful not to go up on the mountain or even touch its base; whoever touches the mountain will surely be put to death. No hand is to touch him; for he must be stoned or shot by arrows; neither animal nor human will be allowed to live.’ When the shofar sounds, they may go up on the mountain.”
3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it had a pleasing appearance and that the tree was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her; and he ate.
[3:6] It isn’t the fruit that is toxic, it is the disobedience. Eating the fruit is an external demonstration of an internal reality.
Aliyah 4 – Genesis 3:22-4:18
3:7 If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high? And if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door — it wants you, but you can rule over it.”
[3:7] This is a major verse for me. It is so meaningful and powerful and I can’t let it go. I believe that if we couldn’t overcome sin, HaShem would be unjust to judge us so severely. This is the basis of that belief
Aliyah 5 – Genesis 4:19-22
4:19 Lemekh took himself two wives; the name of the one was ‘Adah, while the name of the other was Tzilah.
[4:19] I find it interesting that we are told the names of the wives of Lemekh. What is the significance of that? Who are they? They must be granddaughters of Adam and Chavah because there is no other option, but what more is going on? So few of the “others sons and daughters” mentioned in genealogies. That stands out to me.
Aliyah 6 – Genesis 4:23-5:24
5:24 Hanokh walked with G-d, and then he wasn’t there, because G-d took him
[5:24] This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. Fun Fact: there is a non-canonical book from the Apocrypha call the Books of Enoch. Enoch is the English equivalent of Hanokh. There are multiple passages in the Apostolic writings that quote the Apocryphal Enoch., see: Jude 1:14-15
Aliyah 7 – Genesis 5:25-6:8
5:28 Lemekh lived 182 years and fathered a son, 29 whom he called Noach [restful]; for he said, “This one will comfort us in our labor, in the hard work we do with our hands [to get what comes] from the ground that HaShem cursed.”
[5:28-29] After the Flood, Noach is called a farmer. Tuval-Kayin, one of Kayin’s descendants made metal tools, but we don’t know what they were used for. Noach was able to build the ark. That means cutting and binding wood together in a water-tight structure. Did Noach develop farming technology? Did he master the tools others had made and figure out a way to use them to make growing food a little easier? Man and beast were still supposed to be vegan at this time, and with the curse on the ground people would had to have struggled to subsist. Noach is the 10 generation from Adam and not until then, almost 1000 years later did Man have some respite from the taxing job of subsistence farming.
I had this idea about knowing bringing this revolution to the world and how it may have allowed Man to deteriorate more rapidly. I wrote a short story about it called A Cold Comfort
That concludes my journey through Beresheet for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.