Parshat B’reishit • Genesis 1:1-6:8

Bereshit bara Elohim…In the beginning, God…” The first words of Torah, which we begin reading anew this week, present us with a challenge. Why does Torah starts with the letter “bet” instead of the first letter in the alphabet? The Zohar, the mystical text of Jewish tradition, presents a creative answer. “As God verged on creating the world, all the letters presented themselves before God, from last to first.” Each letter presents the case for why it should begin Torah, the sacred work of all creation, and each is ruled out in turn. Tav, which is the seal of the word for truth, emet, is also the seal of the word for death, mavet. Shin, which is the first letter of God’s holy name Shaddai, is also the first letter of the word for lie, sheker. The text continues in similar fashion until the bet is reached, the first letter of blessing, bracha. “Master of the world,” bet said, “may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are blessed in the heavens and on earth.” May this new year give us the opportunity for the recreation of our worlds closer to how we wish them to be, and may this new cycle of reading Torah be a blessing for us as we bless our God.

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