THISSHABBAT: Pray a little, sing a lot, study even more

Candle lighting for

Wednesday, Oct. 11, is 6:02 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 5, 7:04 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 6, 5:59 p.m.

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot ends with Havdalah at 7:01 p.m. DST

Sukkot ends Wednesday at sundown which is when Sh'mini Atzeret begins. The second day of Sh'mini Atzeret is also known as Simchat Torah, when we bring to an end the annual Torah reading cycle. That cycle starts all over again on Shabbat morning with the first parashah, B'reishit. To download this week's Shabbat booklet, click here.

THIS WEEK: Shabbat  M'varchim

Parashat B'reishit

B'reishit 1.1-6.8, pages 3-34

FIRST ALIYAH: "When God began to create the heavens and the earth," etc., does not end with the standard "and it was so" formula of Chapter 1. Why not?

FOURTH ALIYAH: Verse 3.22  is properly translated as "man was like one of us, knowing good and bad." What does this imply about the nature of his having sinned?

The haftarah, Yishayahu 42.5-21,

begins on Page 36.

NEXT WEEK: Shabbat  Rosh Chodesh

Parashat Noach


QUESTIONS FOR

TORAH STUDY

ABOUT THIS WEEK'S READING

B'REISHIT 1 TELLS US

WE MUST PROTECT THE PLANET


     If we understood the first chapter of B'reishit, we might put an end to some of the needless arguments between scientists and religious believers. B'reishit 1 can be restated in terms with which even the most avowed secularist might agree. The world does not belong to us. We hold it as trustees on behalf of those who will come after us.

     Renouncing our ownership of the Earth is all we need to ground what is surely the fundamental point of the story itself: that we are here to protect, not destroy or endanger, the Earth and all it contains.

     An important thing to note is the chapter's numerical structure, one based on the biblically significant number seven. The Universe is made in seven days. Seven times the word "good" is used. The first verse contains seven Hebrew words, the second, 14. The account of the seventh day contains 35. The word "God" appears 35 times; the word "Earth" 21. The entire passage contains 469 (7 x 67) words. By these hints, we are told the Universe has a structure, and it is mathematical.

     Then there is the structure itself. On the first three days, God creates domains: light and dark, upper and lower waters, sea and dry land. On the next three days, He populates these domains one by one: first the Sun, Moon and stars, then birds and fish, then land animals and human beings. The seventh day is holy. So six (the days of creation) symbolizes the natural order, seven the supernatural.

     What is missing is the element of struggle between rival gods that dominates all mythical accounts of creation. In the biblical account, God speaks and the world comes into being.

     On the second day, when the waters are divided, the account lacks the word "good." Instead, "good" appears twice on the third day. The Torah thus dismisses the most common features of myth: the primal battle against the goddess of the sea, symbol of the forces of chaos.

     So the purpose of B'reishit 1 is clear. The Universe is good; it is a place of structure and order. Thus the text is an invitation to science, by implying that the world is not irrational and ruled by capricious powers.

—Adapted from the writings of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks


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