Thoughts on Bereshit

canstockphoto3712801This week’s Parasha is Bereshit, Genesis 1.1 – 6.8.[i] In his introduction to the Koren Siddur, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks notes, “The opening chapter of Genesis, with its account of creation, evokes a sense of order. Each day has its task; each life-form has its place; and the result (until the birth of sin) was harmony.”[ii] As the narrative in Bereshit continues, disharmony grows further until

Adonai saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil all the time. So Adonai regretted that He made humankind on the earth, and His heart was deeply pained. So Adonai said, “I will wipe out humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the ground, from humankind to livestock, crawling things and the flying creatures of the sky, because I regret that I made them.” (Genesis 6.5-7)

The disharmony reached the point that the Creator of the Universe, who once said that all His work was very good (Genesis 1.31), seemingly reached the point of regretting His own handiwork. Then, in the very next breath He presents His solution for curtailing the disharmony— Noah, who “found favor in Adonai’s eyes” (Genesis 6.8).

This week’s parasha ends here. We do not discover why or how Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD until next week’s portion. Taking a peak at the beginning of next week’s reading, we see that the sages saw a common link between Noah and Enoch. Their names in Hebrew are similar חנח (Enoch) and נח (Noah) and they are the only two men recorded in the Scripture to have “walked with God” (Genesis 5.22, 24 & 6.9). The JPS Commentary on Genesis 5.22 describes this “walking with God” as “a life spent in full accord with God’s will and in close intimacy with Him.”[iii] Later the Psalmist would write, “From ADONAI a man’s steps are made firm, when He delights in his way. Though he stumble, he will not fall headlong, for ADONAI is holding his hand,’ (Psalms 27.23-24). Possibly Rav Shual had in mind this idea of walking with the LORD when he encouraged the believers in Rome

…those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Ruach set their minds on the things of the Ruach. (Romans 8.5).

The beginning verses of this week’s Haftarah (Isaiah 42.5-21) links the concepts of “walking with God,” “holding His hand,” and “living by the Ruach”.

Thus says God, ADONAI, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and Ruach to those who walk in it — “I, ADONAI, called You in righteousness, I will take hold of Your hand, I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations…  (Isaiah 42.5-6)

It is the LORD who gives the Ruach for guidance, and holds our hands as we walk with Him in case we stumble. Our security, our harmony, is not in the cares or distractions of the world, but rests solely in His care. Another prophet expressed the LORD’s desired relationship thusly,

He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Like Enoch, Noah, and countless other witnesses throughout the ages, let’s “walk with the LORD” and thereby find “favor in His sight.”

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
[ii] The Koren Siddur with Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. Koren Publishers, Jerusalem 2009. p xxii
[iii] The JPS Torah Commentary, Genesis; The Traditional Hebrew Test with the New JPS Translation and Commentary by Nahum M. Sarna. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1989. p 43

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