Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Parshat Bereshit

Humanity's Objectives

Rashi has difficulty as to why the Torah, a book of religious law, begins with the story of creation. He then goes onto justifying the choice. However, commentaries such as the Ramban cannot understand his question. For him, the Torah is more than just a legal document and it is only natural that it should begin with creation.

Indeed, this week's parsha contains the purpose to creation and answers the question as to why God created the Earth and to what His objectives for humanity are. As it turns out; there are three objectives:

"Be fruitful and multiply"
"Fill the earth and conquer it"
"Rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth" (Bereshit 1:28)
What does this mean? Essentially "God created humanity in His image; in the image of God He created it; male and female He created them" (ibid 27).

Humans are Godlike creatures as we are in His image. Our duty is therefore, to imitate Him, to act like God. Well, God is the creator so we too, must create.

Our first mission is therefore, to create life, the pinnacle of creation (Be fruitful and multiply). By having children we are being Godlike by literally, creating life.

However, God's creation was not just humanity. He also created the earth. So too, we must take the earth and use its resources to create new inventions, all for the betterment of creation (conquer the earth).

Finally, God created the animal kingdom the same day He created humanity. Man therefore, has a duty towards them: to rule them and to ensure their continued existence.

Humanity began this mission quite well: "The man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain… She continued to bear his brother Abel" (ibid 4:1-2). Humanity was fruitful and began to multiply.

"Abel was a shepherd of flocks" – he began to rule the animal kingdom - "while Cain was a tiller of the soil" – he began conquering the earth (ibid).

Unfortunately, things got bad when they began to worship God – but that's a story for another day – or possibly one we'd better steer clear of!!

Nevertheless, the basic message of Bereshit Chapter 1 is beautiful. By simply reproducing and going to work we are achieving Godliness and are doing something holy.

Last year's Sedra Short for Parshat Bereshit, entitled: "The Good the Bad and the Woman" can be found at:

A further Sedra Short for Parshat Bereshit, entitled: "Shattering Ancient Creation Myths" can be found at:

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