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Torah Sparks 5768

Torah Sparks 5768



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Torah Sparks Beresheit to Devarim 5768 - Discussion Guide to the Weekly Torah Portion. Torah Sparks has tried to capture precious truths in each Shabbat Torah reading through quotations that offer insights and questions for open discussion by congregants in a synagogue, a study group or at home.
Torah Sparks Beresheit to Devarim 5768 - Discussion Guide to the Weekly Torah Portion. Torah Sparks has tried to capture precious truths in each Shabbat Torah reading through quotations that offer insights and questions for open discussion by congregants in a synagogue, a study group or at home.

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Published by: api-3811809 on Oct 19, 2008
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 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.
(Bereisheit 1:1-3)
A. Rabbi Yitzhak said: It was only necessary to begin the Torah with “Thismonth shall mark for you...”
(Shemot 12:2)
, 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”
(Tehillim 111:6)
. 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
miscellaneous portions. Nor might we regard the Book of Deuteronomy,which contains the addresses of Moses to Israel, as possessing fullsanctity. Yet we find that the sacredness of the entire Torah is of onepiece, whether it deals with the commandments of God or the maritalrelations of Cain and his wife. The same scrupulous care applies to all,that they should be written on proper parchment, without an extra ormissing letter, and read in synagogue with equal reverence. For it is allthe word of the living God, the Sovereign of the Universe, written twothousand years before the creation of our world. All of it contains thenames of the Holy and Blessed One.
(Rabbi Moses ben R. Joseph of Trani [Safed, 16th century], “Beit Elohim” 33 in Abraham Joshua Heschel,“Heavenly Torah As Refracted through the Generations,” edited and translated by Gordon Tucker, p. 372)
Sparks for Discussion
Older English texts translate the word Torah as “law.” This is consistent with R.Yitzhak’s statement that the logical beginning of the Torah should be Shemot12:2, where the listing of mitzvot begins. Therefore, R. Yitzhak and Rambanboth offer explanations for why the Torah begins with creation, but each of themapplies only to the first chapter of Bereisheit. Why does the Torah contain theremaining 49 chapters of Bereisheit and the rest of its narrative material?Moreover, as R. Moses of Trani teaches, the Torah’s narratives are no lesssacred than the mitzvot. Clearly, a better translation for the word Torah is“instruction.” Surely the Torah contains God’s commandments, but what elsedoes the Torah come to teach us?
2. The First Shabbat
On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and Heceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And Godblessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased fromall the work of creation that He had done.
(Bereisheit 2:2-3)
A. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.
(Bereisheit 1:5)
Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Shimon said “let there be evening” isn’twritten here but “and there was evening.” From this we know that theorder of time preceded creation.
(Bereisheit Rabbah 3:7)
 B. Ten things were created on the eve of Shabbat at twilight. They are themouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach], the mouth of the well [thataccompanied Israel in the wilderness], the mouth of the ass [that spoketo Balaam], the rainbow, the manna, the rod [of Moses], the shamir [amagical creature that cut the stones used to build the Temple], thecharacters [on the Tablets], the writing, and the Tablets. And some say,also the demons...
(Avot 5:8)
 C. Rabbi [Yehuda haNasi] said... The Holy Blessed One created the soulsof the demons but when He came to create their bodies Shabbat beganand He didn’t create them. This comes to teach proper behavior from theTorah, that if a person is holding in his hand a costly object or a preciouspearl on erev Shabbat at sundown we say to him “throw it away,” for He
at whose word the world came into existence was engaged in thecreation of the world and had created their souls but when He came tocreate their bodies the holiness of Shabbat began and He did not createthem.
(Bereisheit Rabbah 7:5)
* Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was a key leader of the Jewish community of Judea toward the end of the 2nd century CE, during its occupation by the Roman Empire. He is best known in Judaism as the chief "editor" or "redactor" of the Mishnah.
Sparks for Discussion
The midrash makes the extraordinary statement that God stopped in the middleof an act of creation when the sun set on the first Shabbat. Certainly God couldhave delayed the setting of the sun for a few moments until He finished what Hewas doing. Or He might have said, “I’m God – I’m not bound by the rules I putinto place for human beings.” So why did God choose to let Shabbat interruptHis work? Was it only to set an example for human beings? Perhaps God hadsomething more important in mind when He chose to be bound by these rules.How does God’s self-imposed limitation impact our understanding of the brit(covenant) between God and Israel? What impact does the knowledge that God“plays by the rules” have on our relationship to God?

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