PARASHAT BERESHEIT - BIRKAT HAHODESH
October 6, 2007 – 24 Tishrei 5768Annual: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 (Etz Hayim, p. 3; Hertz p. 2)Triennial Cycle: Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 (Etz Hayim, p. 3; Hertz p. 2)Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 (Etz Hayim, p. 36; Hertz p. 21)
Prepared by Rabbi Joyce Newmark
Teaneck, New Jersey
Torah Portion Summary
The Torah begins with God’s creation of the world – light, heaven and earth, theoceans and dry land, the heavenly bodies, plants, animals, and finally the firsthuman beings – in six days. God then blesses the seventh day, Shabbat, theday of rest. The human beings are placed in the Garden of Eden “to till it andtend it,” but when Adam and Eve disobey God’s commandment and eat the fruitof the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they are expelled from the Garden.Eve gives birth to two sons. When they are grown Cain, the elder, kills hisbrother, Abel, and is punished by God. Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth,and the Torah relates the 10 generations from Adam to Noah. The parashaconcludes with God’s sorrow over human wickedness.
1. Does "Torah" Mean "Law"?
When God began to create heaven and earth – the earth being unformed andvoid, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweepingover the water – God said “let there be light,” and there was light.
A. Rabbi Yitzhak said: It was only necessary to begin the Torah with “Thismonth shall mark for you...”
, for this is the first mitzvahabout which Israel was commanded. And what is the reason that itbegins with Bereisheit? Because of this verse: “He revealed to Hispeople His powerful works, in giving them the heritage of nations”
. For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “youare robbers because you seized the lands of the seven [Canaanite]nations,” they can say to them, “The entire world belongs to the HolyBlessed One; He created it and He gave it to whomever was right in Hiseyes. By His will he gave it to them and by His will He took it from themand gave it to us.”
(Rashi [Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1040-1105, France],based on Yalkut Shemoni)
B. One may well dispute this question, for there was a great need to beginthe Torah with “When God began to create heaven and earth...,” for thatis the very root of the faith; one who does not believe in this, andbelieves that the world is primeval, denies the very essence of the faithand such a person has no Torah at all!
(Ramban [Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, 1194-1270, Spain])
C. On the face of it, it would appear that the highest sanctity pertains only tothe commandments and admonitions, not to the narrative and