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Parshat Bereshit - Genesis 1:1 - 6:8

In the Beginning

Before setting out there are a couple of things that we must come to understand when reading, not only Bereshit (Genesis) but also the entire Torah.

The Torah is not a history book, although it relates certain historical events (of which archeology is proving accurate every day). The Torah is not a science manual even if it touches on the scientific from time to time. And, while it isn’t a book designed to teach grammatical formulation, having an understanding of its original language usage is paramount.

If Torah is none of these things as we understand them in our time, then what is it?

Torah first and foremost is —

[1] A love letter of introduction from the Creator of the universe written to and for His creation.

[2] It is an instruction manual to His creation — one particular group of His people — the Jewish people; on how He wishes them to live in order to be able to best apprehend Him in their every day lives and He to have fellowship with His beloved in an intimately spiritual, as well as, practical way.

[3] The Torah is the story of creation, humankind’s beginnings and the process by which HaShem, from His point of view, initiates that intimacy.

The Torah, is as stated, an instruction manual — a Book of Law (Rashi).

If one wishes to understand the “how” of created things one will be greatly disappointed in reading these opening verses and chapters of Genesis.

If one is seeking the “Who” of creation then these same verses will fully enlighten the eyes of understanding.

As we begin our study of Torah we will come to realize that these opening chapters are a preamble, a prelude, if you will; to the story of Israel and its function to be a set apart people for the Creator to carry out the commission first given to the first humans, Adam and Chavah (Eve).

What was that commission? As we will soon learn it was to open the Tree of Life to all who would freely partake. This Tree of Life — the Torah and all its commandments — is the stream that quenches the thirst of humanity for its Creator and satisfies the soul. This has become known as tikkun olam, which in its purest meaning indicates more than just “repairing the world,” but in the deepest sense preparing the whole being of humanity to come into an active, intimate relationship with the Creator.

The first verse of Genesis opens as:

“In the beginning G-d…” Genesis 1:1

Various translations have rendered it in various way — such as — “In the beginning of G-d creating the heaven and earth — when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters.” Or, “When G-d began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the face of the deep and a wind from G-d sweeping over the water —“

There are a myriad of translations following the above pattern of interpretation. While they try to illuminate the original Hebrew, in my opinion, they assume too much by trying to imply a process of understanding that may or may not be indicated. I prefer the simple and direct literal interpretation of the Hebrew text:

“In the beginning G-d created the universe and the earth. The earth was in a chaotic state clothed in darkness and the wind of G-d moved over the waters of the deep.”

The next several verses follow HaShem’s creative process:

[1] Light

[2] Atmosphere with water above and below it

[3] Appearance of dry ground

[4] Seedlings for vegetation in the ground (dirt)

[5] Appearance through the atmosphere of Sun and Moon

[6] Living creatures in sea, air and land culminating with the creation of human beings — make and female in the image of G-d

[7] HaShem rested — creating the holy Shabbat Day

In our terms of measuring time how long did this creation take? The Torah says a total of six (6) days. However, we must not forget that this story is being told from HaShem’s perspective, not ours. Was it our 24 hour day? G-d’s day as poetically described by Moshe Rabbenu in Psalm 90:4?

“For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed, like a watch of the night.”

We simply do not know and likely never will. What we do currently know is the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old and the universe is around 14 to 15 billion years old coinciding with HaShem’s order of creation — “In the beginning G-d created the universe and then the earth.”

With our Jewish calendars we date our beginnings currently as the year 5781 years since creation. But, is this really the date of creation or the date starting the first post-deluge civilization of Sumer — the home of our father Avraham? I personally hold to the latter. But all this speculation and even scientific understanding of the age of the earth and the universe tells us nothing of the length of time to actually begin and create it all; so, I will stick to HaShem’s perspective of 6 days and leave the length of those days to HaShem.

The next two chapters detail a more indepth telling of the story of all humanity’s parents — Adam and Chavah and their offspring, as well as the first pre-deluge civilizations of humankind.

We are introduced to a series of firsts — the first disobedient act (sin - transgression), the first conception and birth of a human child, the first offering of sacrifices to HaShem own an alter and sadly, the first murder and first exile.

We learn of the development of the first cities and states, trades, craftsmen — all that is necessary to make a civilization viable and functional.

In these first six chapters of Genesis we are introduced to some famous and infamous people. The aforementioned parents of humanity — Adam and Chavah, their first two sons Cain (the first murderer) and Abel (the first victim of violence) and Seth, first in a long line of humans to invoke Adonai by Name (YHVH).

It is during this time of Cain and his brother Seth we see the beginnings of a divide in humanity between what has become known as the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.

Chapter six starts out with a strange telling of a time when “the sons of G-d” looked upon the daughters of men and how beautiful they were and took them as wives. The way it is portrayed in the Hebrew indicates many of these daughters of men did not go willingly with these “sons of G-d” but were forcefully taken — in other words, raped.

Why was this incorporated in this story at this point of its telling and who are these “sons of G-d?”

The truthful answer is — we simply do not know for sure. The Hebrew is a bit ambiguous and simply calls them b’nai Elohim. It has been translated as “divine beings,” “sons of rulers,” “angels of G-d,” etc. The most accurate description based on this Hebrew and latter usage in Tanakh would be the “powerful ones.” Powerful ones were the rulers and princes of rulers of the people during the pre-deluge era civilizations. Over time the Sons of Darkness became the dominant ruling class and began taking advantage and liberties with the peoples covering the earth with a cloak of spiritual blindness and tyranny. Dictatorial rule reigned over the whole earth. It became a time of mighty and ferocious men of renown for their age. Eventually it became so bad that even children were not exempt from the effects of such deep rooted darkness and rebellion.

“Adonai saw how great was man’s wickedness on the earth and how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5

It is in this darkest moment of the depravity of humanity we are introduced to the one glimmer of light still remaining on the planet.

“But Noach found favor with Adonai.” Genesis 6:8

Until next week when we look at this marvelous man Noach — Shabbat Shalom.

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