(Artist: Darius Gilmont, Parshat Gilmont)
This week, we begin anew – at the beginning, the beginning of the Torah. The Torah begins with the word “b’reishit” – literally: “in the beginning.”
There’s a story, a midrash which tries to explain how God chose which letter would be the first letter in the Torah. According to this midrash, before the world was created, the letters of the alphabet presented themselves before God. The letter Aleph announced: “I should be used to create the world, since I am the first letter in the alphabet.”
God replied, “No, I will create the world with the letter Bet, because it is the first letter of the word Bracha (blessing). It’s my hope that My world will be for a blessing!”
And that’s the story of how the world’s creation begins with the letter Bet — Breishit.
What does it mean for the world to be created “for a blessing” or for us to start anew each year with the notion of bringing blessings to our world?
The Genesis story reminds us that just as God creates a world of blessing, beauty and perfection, we too have the ability to create a world of blessing, beauty and perfection.
As humans, we are imperfect and subject to imperfect behavior. The Torah recounts how we rise and fall, only to find our way back to that primordial state of being a blessing to others once again, if only we work together to do so.
The Merger Poem (from The Dinner Party) by Judy Chicago
And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom