Saturday, October 6, 2007

"In the Beginning..."

This week's Parsha is the first of the entire Torah. Quite appropriately, it is called "Bereshit" -- "In the beginning" -- because of its opening phrase, "In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth."

But let's analyze that for a moment. Rashi objects to the translation "In the beginning" for the simple reason that "Reishit" does not mean "beginning" as a free-standing noun, but rather "beginning of" in construct state.

For example, "children" would be "banim" in Hebrew, but "children of..." (as in Children of Israel) is "b'nei" in construct. "B'nai" never stands alone in a Hebrew sentence. Only when there is a complement phrase or noun that follows (i.e. "Israel") can a construct be used.

Reishit is a word in construct form. Consequently, a more accurate translation of this oft-quoted passage would read: "In the beginning of _______, G-d created heaven and earth." (If the verse intended "In the beginning," the phrase should have been "B'rishona")

This begs the obvious question: in the beginning of what?

(Rashi offers several interpretations. See B'reishit 1:1, 2nd Rashi, at length)

Let's try a somewhat unconventional approach to this age-old question.

Perhaps "In the beginning of [blank]" is precisely what the Torah is trying to say.
The Torah is telling you, the reader, to fill in the blank with something new you are beginning. Any new activity or pursuit, either spiritual ("Heaven") or a material ("Earth").

For example, "In the beginning of my trying to keep Shabbat," or "In the beginning of my new job," or "In the beginning of my trying to have a meaningful relationship with so-and-so," and so on.

Indeed, all new beginnings are fraught with difficulties. All too often we are too set with the status quo, too set in our ways to adapt comfortably to change. Sometimes we don't know where to start, and feel overwhelmed with a sense of chaos and lack of clear direction. At times we may feel a sense of emptiness, as though we are missing the motivation to go forward.

So the Torah (comes from word "Horaah" -- instruction) comes to guide us through by demonstrating that the beginning of any new endeavor in life follows the same model of creation.

Firstly, be aware that "G-d is creating heaven and earth." If the challenge seems too tough and insurmountable, don't shy away. It's not an accident or coincidence that you happen to be in your current set of circumstances. G-d is creating you and your surroundings anew at this very moment.

Secondly, don't get discouraged if you encounter difficulties, darkness, chaos, or feeling of emptiness, in your first attempts. G-d experienced the same thing. "And the earth was astonishingly formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep..."

Did He get discouraged? No. Instead He said: "Let there be light!"

That's what you need to do. Turn the darkness into light. "A Mitzva is a candle and the Torah is light." A bit of light dispels much darkness. By imbuing your surroundings with the joy, meaning & wisdom of the Torah, the "void and darkness" we all encounter in life will instantly dissipate.

Once there is light, there is clarity and focus. It won't happen all at once, but in an organized, orderly fashion. Just like in creation: first there was mineral, then plant life, then animal life, and finally human life.

Your efforts will finally bear fruit, through thoughtful planning and dedication. All you need to do first is turn on the light.

And there will be light.

Happy Shabbat Bereshit!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great content!