As we begin the Torah cycle anew, we would like to welcome a new commentator for the weekly Parsha. Also we gratefully acknowledge the thoughtful, perceptive and inspiring comments of our previous commentator……and welcome readers comments…………………
Bereshit is a fascinating parsha, describing how the world came into being.
If G-d made the world, He has a say in how we should live. If He made the dry land and the seas, He has a say in who lives in these continents.
The famous Rashi comment goes: The Torah (which is the holy book of the Jewish people) should have begun with the first commandment to the Jewish people: Make this month of Nisan the first of the months. Why then does it start with the creation of the world? So that if people complain about the Jews having the Land of Israel, saying, “You are robbers!”, we should say that G-d made the whole world, and if He wanted the Jews to have the land of Israel, then that’s how it should be. Rashi lived in France from 1040-1105, but his comment sounds very modern and relevant.
Even though the UN voted in 1947 for a Jewish homeland, based on the San Remo Conference of 1920 and Balfour Declaration of 1917, anti-Zionists today say that a Jewish homeland was a mistake.
In those days most people knew the Bible, and they knew the Jewish attachment to the land of the Bible. They had seen how the Jews had reclaimed the land from swamps and rocky barrenness. In those pre-state days it was the Jews who others called Palestinians.
How short are people’s memories.
In his Commentary on the book of Genesis ‘Covenant and Conversation’ Chief Rabbi of England Jonathan Sacks describes the moral development of humanity as portrayed in this Parsha and the next (Noah). When G-d asks Adam and Eve if they have eaten from the forbidden fruit, Adam blames Eve and G-d (The woman you put here with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it), then Eve blames the snake (The serpent deceived me and I ate). Sacks says that they both “deny personal responsibility”. He says this mindset is the basis for the victim mentality. Later, after the first murderer Cain has killed his brother Abel, he says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Sacks calls this denying “moral responsibility” – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Later, in the next Parsha, Noah does nothing to save his generation, and thus avoids “collective responsibility”.
When we get to Abraham, who does care for everyone including G-d, we see “ontological responsibility”, in that he responds to a Moral Authority beyond himself. If there is no G-d, and morality is whatever each person thinks it is, society can get into the kind of chaos and violence (called Hamas in the Torah) that Noah floated away from.