Notes on Torah Portion Bereshith

Recently we studied the Torah portion Bereshith, Genesis 1:1-6:8. This portion is about the origin of the Universe, in a spiritual interpretation. In 1:26, God says, “Let us make Man in Our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on Earth. And God created Man in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

“Let us make Man in OUR image” – plural. God is One, so why the plural?

“…in Our image…” What is the image of God? A reflection of God, if not God Him/Herself? Are we to be part of God in the world?

God assigns Man dominion over the creatures of the Earth; this does not imply that Man can do whatever he wants to the Earth. Man, being a reflection of the image of God, is to do God’s work on the Earth.

“…male and female he created them.” This is one of the stories of the beginning of male and female in this portion.

God has given Man every plant and fruit, and every animal therein. The plant and animal life of the earth is a gift of God, for all.

2:1-7-God rests of the seventh day. God forms Man from the dust of the Earth (material substance), and “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and Man became a living being.” The “breath of life” must refer to the soul, in Hebrew Neshamah; without it, the body is dead material. the soul is a portion of God; God has placed a portion of himself inside each human being, to do His work on Earth. Humans are not at all separate from God.

2:18-God tries to find for Man a compatible companion. God brings out all the animals, and Man names each species; this signals further man’s supervision of the earth on behalf of God. God forms Woman from Man; Man and Woman are made of the same material, physical and spiritual. They are opposite each other, and still compatible and complementary-both are equally necessary. (This is also a different story of the origin of Male and Female in chapter one.)

“The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame.” What does “nakedness” mean here? This is what led to the idea of the naked human body as being “sinful” and “shameful.”

Chapter 4-After Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, the give birth to Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a sheppard; each of them presents an offering to God, and God accepts Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. What was wrong with Cain’s offering?

God tell Cain (4:6-7) If you do right, there is uplift; but if you do not do right, sin crouches at the door; its urge is toward you, but you can be its master.” God doesn’t wat a perfunctory offering or ritual; He wants us to live and act righteously in the world, and to control the negative inclinations we have.

4:8-Out in the field, Cain kills Abel-out of jealousy for God accepting his offering? Is Abel not willing to follow any sort of spiritual discipline?

4:9-God call out to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” It’s more like a challenge to Cain than a question. Cain says, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” This is the challenge we face to this day-what are the responsibilities we have to each other’s welfare?

Chapter 6-“The divine beings” come to earth and take the daughters of Men as wives; they are called “Nephilim;” is there any literature about the “Nephilim?”

These are speculations and questions on my part, I have no answers.

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Rosh ha-Shana Revelation

On Monday, September 10 I attended first day Rosh ha-Shana services with my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir. ( At the Aliyah to the Torah, we read the first verses in the first chapter of Genesis, which spoke G-d creating the Heavens and the Earth out of the void, the nothingness.

It hit me-that is the same premise of Quantum Physics, that the so-called “solid matter” we see and feel around us is really trillions of atoms; and these atoms by themselves are really bundles of energy, a wave until you look upon it, not solid mater either. Just as in Quantum Physics, the World, the so-called “solid matter,” came out of no-thing-ness. It’s great how these spiritual teachings mesh well together.