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.

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10 thoughts on “Bereshit

  1. both encouraging and challenging to be reminded of our role in this world as Jews
    A good way to put it! With emphasis on those two adjectives, “encouraging” being uplifting and “challenging” being – it’s not so easy.

    Thanks for the “in honor of”.

  2. Beautiful.

    “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.”

    I think this would be part of the beauty of the Hirschian Torah as non-theological anthropological theonomy ( = non-metaphysical humanistic Divine law), which Heschel took and translated into English 😛 as “G-d in search of man”.

    If man is in search of G-d, then Torah and religion are only what man wants, then it will only reflect man’s sensual passions and mistaken intellectual notions.

    But if G-d is in search of man, then He has demands of us; we have responsibility.

    As Heschel said, “The Bible is an answer to the question, What does God require of Man? But to modern man, this question is surpassed by another one, namely, What does man demand of God? Absorbed in the struggle for emancipation of the individual we have concentrated our attention upon the idea of human rights and overlooked the importance of human obligations.”

  3. Sorry, I cannot resist.

    According to Rabbi Emanuel Rackman,

    “[Rabbi Joseph] Soloveitchik [of YU] regards as altogether too simple the popular notion of religious experience as one preeminently pleasing and soothing-a stream of delight and relaxation and an asylum from the frustrations of life. This conception of religion Rabbi Soloveichik deems a fraud, the result of a surrender on the part of religious thinkers to the desire of the mass of men to lose themselves in states of bliss. It also echoes Rousseau in his flight from reason, and much subsequent romanticist thought. Religion’s invitation has been misinterpreted to say: “If thou cravest peace, if thou cravest integration, make the leap of faith.” In the flight from reason and the rejection of objective truth, Rabbi Soloveichik sees the cause of the moral deterioration of contemporary man. He would prefer to see religion wedded to a cold objectivity and rationality, even though faith and reason may at times appear to conflict with one another, rather than derive religion from man’s instinctual longings.”

  4. Pingback: Review with Road to Kinneret » Here in HP, Highland Park, New Jersey blog

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