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Parashat HaShabua
(Weekly Torah Portion)


By Rabbi Joshua Ezra Kolet
24nd Tishri 5768
6th October 2007

Genesis: Chapter: 1 verse 1 Chapter: 6 verse 8

Bereshith begins with a description of
the creation of the Universe. God creates
the world in seven days as follows:
First day - Light and darkness.
Second day - Sky and Waters.
Third day - Earth and Seas, Plants, trees
and vegetation.
Fourth day - Sun, Moon and Stars.
Fifth day - Fish, Water creatures and
Sixth day - land creatures and Man.
Seventh day - Shabbath.
Adam Man who is created from the dust
of the earth is placed in the Garden of
Eden. God commands Adam not to eat of
the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Then God create for him a mate - Chava
by separating a side of Adam.
A Serpent in the garden tricks Chava to
eat the fruit from the forbidden tree.
Chava eats the fruit and gives it to Adam

resulting in their becoming conscious of
their nakedness. God punishes him by
banishing them from the Garden of Eden
and tells them that they will get food only
with hard toil and women will bear
children in pain.
Following their expulsion Adam and
Chava have two sons, Cain and Havel.
Cain becomes farmer and Havel
becomes a shepherd. They bring
offerings to God of which Havel's is
accepted while Cain's is rejected. Cain
looses his temper and kills Havel. God
punishes Cain by making him a
wanderer. Adam and Chava are blessed
with a third son, Seth from whom Noah
When humanity increases on the earth
God regrets that He has made man and is
sad on account of their wickedness and
God decides to destroy humanity along
with all other living creatures. However
Noah finds favors with God.

Foundation for Jewish Life in India
21 Hajirnis Niwas, above Micron Computers, L.B.S. Marg, Near Kolbad Naka, THANE-400601


Dear Friends,
This Shabbath is called Shabbath Bereshith. Today we begin the cycle of reading the Torah
with the first of its books called Bereshith, hence the name. If we study the book of Bereshith, a
considerable part of it comprises of the history of mankind. Beginning with the story of creation
and first human - Adam, it goes on to tell us the story of Noah, followed by the story of the tower
of Babel, and finally the selection of Avraham avinu. In all these stories the Torah talks about
humanity in general. In the fifth chapter it explicitly begins by saying “This Book is the book of
Generations of Man”. So we can really say that the Torah, although given to Jewish people as
their holy code is also a manual about humankind. With that in mind let us focus on a
fundamental principle about Human beings that the Torah shares with us.
In six days God created the world and on the sixth day He created man but unlike any other of
His previous creations He makes His intention known before creating man.
Genesis chapter 1 verse 26-27
26: 'And God said "Let us make man, in our image after our likeness…."
27: And God created Man in His Image…'
Suddenly we have not just one curious question of why the special mention of God's intention
before creating Man but two additional oddities glaring at us. Every Jew will react to such a
sentence. When Torah itself came to teach us that there is only one God Who is the creator of
the world, “Let us make man” hints to another divinity, somebody sharing power with God!
Then God goes on to reveal to us that Man is created in His Own image and His Own likeness.
What is the image and likeness of God? Is God physical? Does He have a form? And if we
understand as Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon - Maimonides) has clearly taught us in his
unequivocal book Morey Nevukhim, that God is beyond shape or form, that God by definition
of His infinity is formless (since a form or shape would limit Him), then we have to reinterpret 'in
our image and in our likeness' in acceptable terms. So now we have one primary question why does God reveal His intention to create Man? And two secondary ones - a) Who are being
referred to when God says 'us' and b) What is the form of God that is mirrored in Man?
Let us look at a very insightful Midrash brought down in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin
38b) which gives us a clue to our questions:
R. Judah said in the name of Rav: When the Holy One blessed be He wished to create
man, he first created a company of ministering angels and said to them, “Is it your
desire that we make man in our image?” They answered, Sovereign of the universe,
what will be his deeds? Such and such will be his deeds, he replied [He showed them
the course of human history]. They thereupon exclaimed, Sovereign of the universe,
what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you think of him?
(Psalm 8: 5) At this, He stretched out his finger and consumed them with fire. The same
thing happened with a second company of angels. The third company said to him,
Sovereign of the universe, what did it avail the former angels when they spoke to you?


The whole world is Yours; do whatever You wish. G-d then created mankind. When it
came to the age of the Flood and of the division [of tongues, i.e. the Tower of Babel]
whose deeds were corrupt they said to him, Sovereign of the universe, did not the first
angels speak correctly? G-d replied: Even to old age I am the same, and even to grey
hairs I will forebear (endure their pain) (Isaiah 46:4).
According to this Midrash we are told that God was discussing the matter aloud with his angels.
The 'us' in the torah is referring to angels. Let us discuss the whole concept of angels and their
function at another time but I would like to draw your attention to another important concept
which comes across powerfully. Through the conversation with angels the Midrash shows
humanity in a very negative light. They vote against Human creation. The pinnacle of God's
creation - Homo sapiens would not have seen the light of the day if the angels would have had
their way! They decided with a look at our history. How ambitious and aggressive are our acts,
how cunning and criminal our minds, how devastating and destructive our impulses and how
savage and ruthless our history.
What is it that allows Man to be such?
Rambam elaborates the reason in his tremendous work on Jewish Law - The Mishneh Torah
Rambam Hilchot Teshuvah Chapter 5
Free will is bestowed on every human being. If one desires to turn toward the good way
and be righteous, he has the power to do so. If one wishes to turn toward the evil way
and be wicked, he is at liberty to do so . . . Every human being may become righteous
like Moses our teacher, or wicked like Jeroboam; wise or foolish, merciful or cruel,
niggardly or generous, and so with all other qualities . . . This doctrine is an important
principle, the pillar of the Law and the commandments, as it is said, “See I have set
before you this day life and good, and death and evil,” and again it is written, “Behold, I
set before you this day a blessing and a curse.” This means that the power is in your
hands, and whatever a man desires to do among the things that human beings do, he
can do, whether they are good or evil . . . If G-d had decreed that a person should be
either righteous or wicked, or if there were some force inherent in his nature which
irresistibly drew him to a particular course . . . what room would there be for the whole
of the Torah? By what right or justice could G-d punish the wicked or reward the
righteous? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth act justly?”
Man then is a being with freewill. It is given to him to decide the course of his action. This is a
unique quality that Man has been bestowed with unlike any other previous creation. In fact this
is a unique quality that belongs to God himself, He alone has Total and unrestricted choice.
God in his wisdom decided to let man share the same potential - freedom of choice. In this
manner alone we are like God - created in His image and in His likeness.
This is our unique gift that makes us Human, the Pinnacle of creation: Once we understand
this potential in man that he is a creature of free choice only then we understand the
complexity of man, then we realize that man is not just another step in the Darwinian chain of
development. He is a very complex creature with feeling and emotion with intellectual and


creative powers and with the capacity to reach spiritual height and all these gifts are necessary
for him to exercise his highest potential - freedom of choice. This is what warrants Hashem's
(God) special treatment of His paramount creation by revealing his intention of creating Man.
To internalize what it means to have freewill let us focus on the first known act of wielding the
destructive power hidden in it which is also in Parashat Bereshith. We all know the story. Cain
and Havel both bring their offerings to God. Havel's offering is accepted and Cain's offering is
rejected. Cain gets angry, and at this point there is a very interesting conversation that the
Torah relates
Bereshith Chapter 4 Verses 6-8
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do
what is right, will you not be accepted? 7: But if you do not do what is right, sin is
crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8: Cain said to
his brother Havel… and when they were in the field Cain set upon his brother and killed
Here we could ask 'If God was aware what Cain was about to do why didn't He save Havel?
The answer to this important question is the same answer for 'why is there evil in this world?',
'Why are there massacres in this word?', 'Why are there holocausts in this world?' The answer
is this pasuk (sentence) where, to help Cain master his baser instincts G-d warns him. God
allowing man to be free to do what ever he wants, does instruct us (through prophets and
Torah), but does not stop man whenever his decisions and action is not to His liking. Doing that
will take away his freedom of choice and if He takes away his freedom of choice man will no
longer be what he is intended to be - an image of God. He will be just like a robot, like so many
other animals that are controlled by their instinct and are at its mercy. God in his wisdom
decided to let man have this ability to destroy himself and His beautiful world only so that man
could have this gift of free choice. This according to the Midrash, He does knowing fully well
that Human beings are going to create havoc on this earth. The reason to bestow on him this
power is that this same capacity is the potential to do good and to emulate God and in the true
sense be God-like. To achieve that end God teaches us “sin is crouching at your door; it
desires to have you, but you must master it.”, it means that this gift can only be actualized if
we act responsibly with this freedom of choice. Only if Humankind understands that freewill is
what makes man an image of God then we also realise that with it comes a lot of
responsibility to make ourselves like God.
Recognising this principle, finally we can reinterpret why the intention to create man had to be
revealed. Since it is only in the hands of man to act responsibly to make a Man of himself (and
master the impulse to make him a beast); God was speaking with Humankind “Let us make
man”. It is now upon us to live up to His expectation and become His partner!

Shabbath Sha