Throughout life one asks the same question in many forms. This question lies at the heart of a search for oneself, a search that begins with the first glimmer of consciousness and continues to the very last breath. For every human being it varies, and at every state of his life…. One never really extricates oneself from the context of the issue, Who am I?… Virtually all of the investigation a person ever does, whether of himself or of problems outside himself, consists for the most part of pyramids upon pyramids of answers to that basic question about the essence of his being.
(Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, The Thirteen Petalled Rose)
This week’s Torah portion, lekh lakha (Genesis 12:1 – 17:27), is the first portion that addresses the Jewish story. Previous portions, bereshit and noach, dealt with humanity as a whole; from this point on, however, the Torah deals exclusively with the Jewish people. Just as the sprouting of an acorn contains within it the entire oak tree in condensed form, and just like the first verse of the Torah is said to include the entire Torah in it, so one may expect that the opening words of this parashah express Judaism in condensed form.
And God said to Noah… Make yourself an ark of cypress wood
The story of Noah and the flood, which is the subject of this week’s parashah (weekly potion of the Torah reading, Genesis 6:9 – 11:32), has excited the imagination of both children and adults for millennia. So much so, that numerous attempts have been made to locate physical remains of the ark in an effort to prove that the flood “really” happened, i.e., happened in the world of space and time. But would such a finding change us spiritually? Perhaps a more useful perspective would be to see the Noah story as a guide for reaching beyond space and time and establishing a new alliance with the Eternal.
What better place to start a blog, than on the first words of the Bible? This post was written at the invitation of Rabbh Kaya Stern-Kaufman and was sent to the mailing list of her organization, Rimon, A Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality.
בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ (בראשית א’ א)
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth
This week’s parashah (weekly Torah reading), bereshit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) is the first parashah of the Torah. It contains the story of creation and the opening lines of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (bereshit bara elohim et hashamayim ve-et ha’aretz). Often mistaken by religious fundamentalists to be a chronological account of the actual physical processes through which the universe was brought into being, it is in fact a metaphorical, metaphysical map of the sequential emergence of duality out of unity.