Parashat Beresheet: In the Beginning
Beresheet (Genesis) 1:1–6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5–43:10
Once again, the annual cycle of reading the Torah (also known as the “Books of Moses” or the first five books of the Bible) begins. My aim in writing these commentaries is to continue following the weekly portions as they are read in synagogues throughout the world and write short commentaries on them, as I have done during the past four years.
I would like to encourage you to read my past blogs on the same portions as I am always receiving new understanding from the LORD about His Word. This is one of the things I love most about God’s Word; it is living and breathing, bringing us new revelation every time we read it!
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…
2 Timothy 3:16
Every time I read this verse, I am struck at how many well-meaning followers of the Messiah miss out because they do not read the entire Bible; the fact is that when Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) wrote the words above, the only Scripture that existed during that time was the Tanakh (what many people refer to as the “Old” Testament). As many of you readers know, I refute that term and instead refer to it as Paul referred to it: Scripture. So, I will continue to write on the Hebrew Scriptures because they hold treasures for every follower of Messiah that not only enrich, but also strengthen our walk with God.
As I reflected on this week’s portion, I was amazed at how our entire reality is encapsulated in the first six chapters of Beresheet (Genesis): we find a Creator and His creation; we learn about lack of order and order; we find God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) and the Word of God; we also find the difference between darkness and light, and the difference between the roles of all things that were created. We also see God conversing with someone equal to Himself (Genesis 1:26), expressing a desire for human beings to be and behave in His/Their likeness. Perhaps most importantly, we see that God created us in order to have relationship with us, while imparting to us the importance of resting and resetting. We find the fact that it is important for humans to be in community, to have fellowship, and that it is not good for us to be alone. We also see that we were created not just to have relationship with God, but also to care for His Creation that He entrusted to us, to worship Him, and serve others as we Him.
We learn about the Tree of Life — eternal life — as well as about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We learn that the byproduct of disobedience (sin) is death, but that obedience means life. We learn about the connection between life and death, and that we have an enemy, a tempter, who desires for us to doubt God's instructions and be separated from God. We see that our eyes can deceive us and that we cannot rely on our own understanding or knowledge. We see that humankind's desire to be like God is the root of sin, disobedience, and shame. We see that from the beginning, men and women did not take responsibility for their wrongdoings but rather blamed others, or worse, God. We understand that human beings cannot redeem ourselves on our own, but need God's redemption in order to bring us back into true fellowship with the Father.
We find that there are differences between men and women and the different responsibilities or privileges that they have on earth, such as giving birth to a new life. We find the institution of marriage, and that it was not intended to be broken. We see the difference between those who belong to God and those who do not, and the fact that we are not supposed to be unequally yoked.
We learn about the fact that God wants our very best, our first fruits. We see that order is foundational to who God is, and that His precepts determine how we are to live. We see that, from the beginning, He set foundational principles such as forbidding murder and requiring a punishment for doing so. We see the origin of all of the people on this earth and where they came from.
Finally, we find God’s amazing grace from the beginning! Which makes me wonder why we complicate everything? Why are we surprised by the evil in this world? Why can’t we understand that in the midst of all the chaos and lack of order in the times in which we live, all we need to do is return to God and surrender to His order and His ways?
In this cycle of the Scripture reading, I will also be commenting on the Haftara, which is the reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets), which also follows the reading of the Torah in the synagogues. It is not a coincidence that this week the first few verses are from Isaiah 42:5–9:
Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it, “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon
and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. I am the LORD, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.
The Creator of the world, who gave us life, also gave us a way to return to Him. He appointed His Son to bring His light and salvation to this earth, to the nations, and to our lives. He tasked His Son to open the eyes of the blind and to free the prisoners of sin.
Will you return to Him? Will you walk in His ways?
I know the easy answer is “yes”, but the reality is that it is a daily decision that requires everything from us!
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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