Shalom y’all and welcome to the first ever Better Know a Parsha!!
This week’s parsha is Bereshit: The fightin story of creation! Twice! And Adam and Eve! And Cain and Able!
Now, I know what you might be thinking:
But we can do this together.
Thankfully God—like anyone with good taste—is a fan of The Sound of Music, and knows where to start.
Bereshit (b’-ray-SHEET) literally means “In the beginning” and the portion starts with the well-known line: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
I know, so I’m not going to bore you with a recitation of the things God created over the next six days. There are two tellings of the week of creation, but they both involve God fashioning the land, seas, sky, sun, moon, stars, and various animals that fill the earth.
On the sixth day, God created man.
Here’s where we get a little confusion because the Torah first says that God crated man in his image and then goes on to say “male and female he created them.”
But wait! What about that whole rib thing??
No, not those ribs Shaq. The story of God taking one of Adam’s ribs and using it to make Eve, the first woman! Turns out that comes in the next chapter, a retelling of the creation that focuses on day six and includes God’s miraculous surgical abilities.
Before we move on, I want to take a second to focus on what God did on the seventh day after he was done creating the world and everything in it. You see, God realized something.
So on the seventh day, he rested. This was the first shabbat, which Jews continue to celebrate to this day every Saturday. No matter what religion (or lack thereof) you subscribe to, this practice of taking one day every week to step back, reflect and rest can be incredibly powerful.
In addition to being a great individual practice, the observance of Shabbat is a communal one for Jews who traditionally eat festive meals on Friday night and gather to pray on Saturdays. Modern Jewish thinker Echad Ha’Am famously said “More than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
Okay, so we now have a man and a woman and God is well-rested. Back to the narrative.
God had told Adam he could eat from any tree in the garden of Eden, EXCEPT the tree of knowledge.
Adam was all, “okay, cool, I gotcha.” But then the snake started talking to Eve like “oooo baby don’t them apples look good.”
And Eve goes all:
And then both Adam and even Eve…
Needless to say, God was not happy about Adam and Eve breaking the one rule set for them in the garden. There’s a fascinating scene where the two of them hide from God when he calls out to them.
When God asks why they’re hiding, Adam says it’s because they are naked, to which God basically responds:
Realizing the jig is up, Adam confesses to God that he and Eve ate from the tree, but he places the blame squarely on his lady friend.
The punishments for Adam and Eve were both pretty rough, but Eve definitely got the raw end of the deal. For Adam, he would no longer be able to easily coax produce from the earth and would have to toil and sweat to feed himself and his family.
Eve got childbirth.
So life kinda sucks now for Adam and Eve, but then they have two sons, Cain and Abel who can be the light of their lives and comfort them and…
Oh right, that. Turns out both sons offered some sacrifices to God. Abel gave the best of his flock, while Cain gave the scraps from his field. Needless to say God liked Abels sacrifice more, which made Cain very jealous.
The last bits of the parsha focus on lineage, which is it’s own little fascinating story and will perhaps be the focus of next year’s Better Know Bereshit. For now, just know that 10 generations after Adam we get to the main character in next week’s Parsha:
Tune in next week for a new episode of As the Torah Turns.
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What's a Parsha?
Jews read a bit of the Torah (Five Books of Moses/first five books of the Bible) every week in synagogue/temple. Each section we read is called a Parsha.