Parashat Beresheet: In the Beginning
Beresheet (Genesis) 1:1-6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
We are starting another year of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah - also known as the “Books of Moses” or the first five books of the Bible. I am excited to start yet another year of writing commentaries on the weekly Torah portion. This year, I am aiming to put more emphasis on the connection between the readings of the Hebrew Scriptures (Parashah and Haftarah portions/Torah and Prophets) and the New Covenant.
In this week’s reading from Genesis, Genesis 2:8-9 really caught my attention:
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.Out of the ground the LORD God caused every tree to grow that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
I find it fascinating that both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil are specifically mentioned here. Later in Genesis 2:16-17 we read:
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Adam and Eve had the freedom to eat from every tree in the garden - including the tree of life – but were instructed not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The result of them eating from this tree would be death.
Free choice is one of the greatest gifts that God gave us humans from the beginning of time. We can also see that from the beginning, we have the freedom to choose life (to eat from the tree of life) or to choose death (to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). It is important to note that disobedience would be sin, which would lead to death.
Is it possible that the tree of life represents God’s precepts, meaning His instructions? I am reminded of a beautiful verse from Proverbs:
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are those who hold on to her.
There is a wellspring of life in applying God’s instructions to our lives, which can result in great joy. When we walk with God, and when we do the will of God, the result or “fruit” is the tree of life:
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and one who is wise gains souls.
While the freedom to choose is a great gift, it can also be a great struggle. As we know, Adam and Eve ended up eating from the fruit of the knowledge of good of evil, which tragically ended in their being separated from God. This struggle is a real spiritual battle that we know well to this day. Perhaps this is the reason that in the Book of John’s Vision (Revelation) 2:7 we read:
The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregation. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Garden of God.
Note here the importance of hearing and obeying; I believe the reference of “the one who overcomes” here may be connected to Adam and Eve in the Garden, as they did not overcome the temptation and disobeyed God. As followers of Messiah Yeshua, we have been given the Holy Spirit through whom we can overcome any struggle or temptation in our lives, and as a result, we are cleansed and can receive the right to the eternal tree of life. John refers to this again in Revelation 22:14:
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life, and may enter the city by the gates.
Both the Parashah and the New Covenant portions connect in a special way to the Haftarah, in which we read:
This is what God the LORD says, 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 idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they sprout I proclaim them to you.”
In these verses, we find the Creator’s amazing plan of redemption. The One who created the heavens and stretched them out (Genesis 1), and who gives breath to the people (Genesis 2:7), is the same God who appointed His servant (“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” Isaiah 42:1) to be "a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, the One who will open the eyes of the blind and will bring out the prisoners from the dungeon of those who dwell in darkness..." He is indeed the LORD who will not share His glory with another and will not give His praise to idols. He is the same God, who, from the beginning, knew that He would make something new - a new way to be in relationship with Him, through a new covenant of grace and love.
Today I encourage you to choose life…
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