Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat B’Reishit, 13 October 2017
Week of October 8-14 October 2017
Torah portion: Genesis 1:1-6:8 Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
“G-d said” (Gen.1:3). Lieber immediately emphasized in his footnotes that “G-d creates with words. This is the first invocation of the Torah’s belief in the reality of words, their power to create and to destroy.” Our new Bat Kol group, “Ohri-Yah”, in Caro, Michigan (USA) spent several sessions considering the words of parashat B’Reishit. This was our group’s first experience of looking at the text using a Jewish source. In this commentary, I am using their reflections and their eye opening experiences for inspiration and as topics for discussion in your own havrutah groups.
We began our group with study of the Hebrew word “Ohr” (Light) using a study sheet prepared by Bat Kol alumna, MaryAnn Payne, which uses Hebrew “Et Ha Ohr” (Gen.1:3) to explain the letter values of the phrase are 613. The rabbis explain that the primordial light, as distinct from sunlight, gave perfect clarity and understanding; therefore, the rabbis add, the Torah contains 613 mitzvot and gives us a path to clarity and understanding when we study and fulfill the commandments.
Our group was thrilled to learn that during ancient times, light was considered a feature of divinity; we could identify with light in the bible serving as a symbol of life, joy, justice and deliverance. (Lieber, p.5)
A new idea that we discussed was the incompleteness of creation and the responsibility we have as co-creators with G-d to continue creation. We felt renewed in faith and love when we read verse 1:27 “God blessed them and said to them….” Lieber’s footnotes state that God addresses the man and the woman directly. The transcendent God of creation becomes the immanent God, the personal God who enters into communion with human beings. (p.10) This blessing was experienced by our group members as a loving invitation to responsibility, to share in the care of creation, to feel valued as a partner of God in whose image we are created. This validates all the effort and work we put forth in our daily lives.
A fourth topic of extensive discussion was the theme of chaos changed to order; the balance of work versus leisure; the rhythm of humans having control over time; the measurement of time as well as the use of time; and our human failure to accept Sabbath rest as a blessing.
As we continued our parashat B’Reishit following chapters, we took note how “there was a stream welling up, while no rain had yet fallen”, and rain seen as not only a natural phenomenon, but a blessing from G-d; (Gen.2:5-6, Lieber p.13). We are learning to ask questions!
An interesting point of humanity’s ongoing pattern of blaming the other (or others) instead of accepting blame is seen in Adam’s words: “You put the woman at my side she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12). We wondered how after thousands of years following this example humanity still habitually blames others! It certainly provides a lesson for all of us today.
The question posed to Adam, could be addressed to us “...., where are you?” (Gen 3:9) Indeed, where am I?
Bibliography: Lieber, Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, New York, 2001
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
MariAnn (Marjan) Saenen, B.A. M.A. Michigan State University,
Lay Minister, Diocese of Saginaw, MI
Bat Kol alum 1999-2000; 2002, 2010, 2015, 2016
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