This week’s parsha, Parshat Bereishit, is the first parsha in the first book of the Torah. Parshat Bereishit explains the journey of when G-d created the world. As it is commonly known, G-d spent the first six days working hard to give us the world we know and love today, followed by a well-deserved day of rest on the seventh day. Throughout G-d’s creation, Adam and Eve, the first humans to live, were then introduced to the world. Eve was created from Adam’s rib. They lived blissfully in the Garden of Eden until a serpent came along and tempted Eve to sin.
In short, they were faced with the temptation of eating a forbidden piece of fruit. Unfortunately, they failed to resist the forbidden fruit, and ate it anyway. Soon after they committed this sin, they discovered that they would now have to face the wrath of G-d. Suddenly, their “eyes are opened” and G-d kicked them out of Eden as a punishment for being disobedient.
The next story of Bereishit is that of Cain and Abel. This time, G-d asked the two men for offerings. After G-d’s request, Cain got jealous of Abel’s contribution so he killed him. Similarly to Adam and Eve, Cain was then quickly punished by G-d for the sins he committed.
As you can see, this week’s Parsha has a lot going on, as it contains three of the most well-known stories in the Torah : Creation; the Garden of Eden; Cain and Abel. So let's start looking deeper...
Admittedly, each of these iconic stories have been analyzed so much that it would be difficult to find a new interpretation. So instead of focusing on one of the stories, let’s take a look at the parsha for what it is, the prologue of the prequel of the Torah.
A prequel is a story or collection of stories preceding a greater plot, therefore, Genesis fits this description. The book of Genesis sets the foundation for the coming events, all the way back to the creation of the world.
In addition, a prequel is often needed for the comprehension of the coming work, or in our case, to set the foundation for the rest of the story. As a book, Genesis perfectly fits the role of a prequal. This is because, as a whole, the Book of Genesis gives the basis for the world represented in the Torah, creates the setting, shows where the characters come from, and so on.
Now, it is important we discuss the Bereishit (the prologue) itself:
There are many Jewish scholars who have asked whether the story of creation is really necessary. Rebbe Yitzhak, a Talmudic scholar, said: “It was not necessary to begin the Torah [here], but rather with “This month shall be to you” (Exodus 12:2), the first mitzvah commanded to the Jewish people.”
He believed that, although helpful, the stories at the beginning were unnecessary and the Torah could have skipped straight to the stories and journeys of Moses. Personally, I have to disagree with this due to my own, and the general, Jewish population’s curiosity about the beginning of the world. It allows generations of Jews to understand how the world was created.
In our day and age, there have been so many commentaries on almost every single phrase of the Torah. Even the most mundane of sentences are continuously deeply analyzed. It is hard to imagine a situation where we don’t know the beginning of the whole story. What would we do if we had no idea about our lineage? Or about the beginning of human-kind? Therefore, yes I do believe that this portion was not only a valid prologue, but a necessary one.
Having confirmed its purpose in the Torah, what can we learn from this Parsha other than the obvious morals of the three previously mentioned stories?
The part of the parsha that few people concentrate on is the numbering of the ten generations between Adam and Noah. It’s the smallest and most mundane part, taking up only a couple of verses, however; it can be considered one of the most important parts, as it shows concretely how Jews got from one place to another. It represents the beginning of a chain of people that starts with Adam and continues on all the way through the death of Moses.
Having a tangible record of people in any context is extremely helpful but there is almost always a point where you don’t have the resources to keep going back in history. However, Bereshit helps us to go all the way back to a point where we can learn about our ancestors from the very beginning, therefore uniting us all.
BBYO UKI JZA Officer, Abigail Harris
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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