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Dvar Torah Bereshit 2007

Dvar Torah Bereshit 2007

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03/18/2014

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Dvar Torah
Parshat Bereshit
5768
Sydney Nestel
Shabbat Shalom,
This week\u2019s parsha isBere sh it \u2013 Genesis, the first parsha of the Torah cycle,
and the story of the creation of the world and its mythic earliest times.

Now one might be tempted, to use such an auspicious parsha to speculate on
the nature of God, the nature of creation, what existed before the beginning,
the nature of the heavenly host, or other similar metaphysical of ontological
problems. But we are Reconstructionists, and commanded by our
Reconstructionist Rebbe\u2019s \u2013 Kaplan, Eisenstein, Steinberg, Hirsch \u2013 to
focus on the immanent, rather than the transcendent, aspects of the divine
and its creation. In this, our Reconstructionist viewpoint reflects the
traditional midrash:

Why does the torah starts with the letter Bet - as in \u201cB\u2019 reshit\u201d? To
teach us the we should not spend too much time speculating,
fascinating as that may be, on issues of what preceded creation, or the
nature of heaven or of hell. Just as the letter Bet is closed on three
sides and open only on one side, facing forward, the Torah (and by
extension our own focus) is on the here and now and the future that is
before us.

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So whatdo I wish to focus on today? I wish to focus on our Human, and
Jewish responsibility to end poverty. And in particular, our responsibility to
organize society, through effective and righteous public policy, in order to
achieve that end.

First, I hope to show you \u2013 if it needs showing at all \u2013 that the essence of our
humanity demands that we work to end, or at least reduce poverty. Second, I
wish to point out the extent of the problem, even here in Toronto, Ontario,
and Canada. Third, I will make some suggestions as to how you can help
move us in the desired direction: perhaps a little bit closer to the Messianic
era.

To begin \u2013 in the beginning \u2013

\u201cWhy does the Hebrew Bible begin with the creation of the world, and not
with the story of Abraham, or of the Exodus?\u201d The rabbis themselves ask
this question. If the Tanach is the story of the Jewish people and its
relationship to God, why start the story before the first Jew?

One of the answers given is that this is done to show that all land, all wealth and all property is God\u2019s. So when God commands us to share the produce of our fields with the poor we will not say: \u201cThis grain is mine. Why should I share it?\u201d

It is ours only because God has allowed us to have custody of it, and it is
God who is commands us to give some of that grain to those in need.
Our wealth, according to this midrash, is not the creation of our hands

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alone. We are obliged to share it with all of God\u2019s creatures. This is what our
traditions teaches: that our wealth is not ours alone; it must be shared.

In another midrash the rabbis ask: \u201cWhy does God initially create only one
human being? If his wish was that humans populate and fill the world, why
not create many humans at the time of creation, as he did with the fish of the
sea and the other animals?\u201d The answer offered in the Talmud
is that God did this so that no person would think himself better then his
fellow. We are all \u2013 literally \u2013 related. We are family. We are brothers and
sisters \u2013 all of humanity \u2013 and we should treat each other as we would
brothers and sisters. This is what our tradition teaches: that all people are
bothers and sisters.

And yet another question. \u201cWhat is the first bad thing to arise in the
world?\u201d

As we all know, God creates the world in six days, and after each step of
creation he pauses to admire his handy-work and \u2013 in the words of our
parsha \u2013 \u201cGod saw that it was good\u201d.

When, then, is the first point in Bible, that God saw that it wasnot good?
Genesis 2 verse 15 reads:
Now YHVH God said: \u201cIt is not good for the human to be alone. I
will create a sustainer beside him.\u201d
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