Bereshit

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וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה.

Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

This week’s parshah reminds us that, among the whole of creation, only man is a combination of “the dust of the ground” and the breath of God.

This singularity is reflected is man’s distinctive potential: we are endowed with the ability to be creative and have the capacity for self-transformation. Unlike plants and animals we are not bound by nature and its laws – or at least only to a certain degree.

Thus our ability to create or/and choose between good and evil is what makes us distinctively human. Moreover we are also the only life-form that is capable of a dialogue with God, the creator of life. One of the most efficient tools in this conversation is the Torah, a book about how to live and use our human freedom.

As we start a new cycle of Torah reading it is both encouraging and challenging to be reminded of our role in this world as Jews. This week we are asked to remember that – to quote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

Judaism is God’s supreme call to humankind to freedom and creativity on the one hand, and on the other, to responsibility and restraint – becoming God’s partner in the work of creation.

In honor of Leora’s middle-son who has his bar-mitzvah this week.