The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Bereshit and is found in Genesis 1:1-6:8. In this portion, we start anew our yearly Torah reading cycle. The Torah begins with God’s work of creation. Chapter 1 describes a very orderly process. Cosmos, replete with earthly flora and fauna, replaces chaos in six days of divine effort. Humankind is the crowning achievement of God’s creation, introduced on the sixth day. The goodness of the physical world is asserted repeatedly. This goodness seems to reach its peak only with the creation of humanity: “God saw all that He had made, and found it very good.” The seventh day is blessed by God as a sacred time of rest. Chapter 2 recasts the creation narrative with complementary details: Man is created first, but made complete through the creation of woman. The rest of the parasha describes decisions that the first people make which influence their futures. Chapter 3 describes the deception in the Garden of Eden as both Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and later blame each other and the serpent for the deception. In response, God clothes Adam and Eve and they are asked to leave the garden. Eve gives birth to Cain and Abel, who choose different lives. Cain, jealous that God does not honor his sacrifice but pays heed to Abel’s, kills Abel and consequently must leave the area to wander the earth. Eve again bears a son named Seth who grows up to be a godly man and people began to call on the name of the Lord.
Although many important points can be drawn from this portion, two stand out: first that God was purposeful and orderly in His creation of the world. Second, decisions that we make that may seem small today, often influence the decisions and paths we travel in the future. Finally, God places a high value on human life. The Torah describes the first human being as the deliberate product of God’s creation. This description of God creating an individual human being, rather than a host of human beings, is important. The Mishnah teaches that God chose to create a single human being to teach us that a single life is important, and that whoever destroys a single life is as if he had destroyed an entire universe, and whoever sustains a single life is as if he had sustained an entire universe. Also, if we all come from the same being, we cannot say we are greater or lesser than another person. We are all the same in the eyes of God. This week may we remember to think about the decisions we make and strive to choose directions that make us better people. May we also respect and value the lives of those we come in contact with and to realize all of us are special in God’s eyes.