The Portion of Bereishit

Oct 4, 2015

Photo credit: Yehoshua Halevi

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃

When Hashem began to create heaven and earth—

b'-ray-SHEET ba-RA e-lo-HEEM AYT ha-sha-MA-yim v'-AYT ha-A-retz

Genesis 1:1

וְנֹחַ מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְהֹוָה׃

But Noach found favor with Hashem.

Genesis 6:8

The book of Genesis, and indeed the entire Torah, opens with the story of creation. We are told that God took six days to create the world we know, and on the seventh day He rested. Once man walks the Earth, the story shifts its focus to him. We are told of Adam and Eve’s poor choices in the Garden of Eden, resulting in their expulsion, and the rivalry of their children, Cain and Abel. The generations between Adam and Noah round out the portion.

 

The Israel Bible cites Rashi, who explains why the Torah, essentially a book of law (the word “Torah” means instruction), would begin with stories, especially the story of creation. Rashi says this way, when the nations of the world accuse the Children of Israel of stealing the land, the Jews will be able to point to the Bible and declare that God, who created it all, chose to give the Holy Land to Abraham and his descendants.

 

The first Hebrew word in the Torah is Bereishit, meaning “in the beginning”, while the final word is Yisrael, or Israel. Thus, the first and last letters of the Torah can be combined to spell the Hebrew word lev, meaning “heart”. As the Israel Bible points out, this reminds us that the Torah is the heart of the Jewish people and an expression of God’s love for humanity.

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