Bereishit

“Parsha and Purpose” – Bereshiet 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“God’s Social Contract with Humanity”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

“God’s Social Contract with Humanity”

Bereshiet: A new Torah-reading cycle begins this week, with the story of Creation. And as we get a blow-by-blow description of how God creates the world and everything in it, some very curious language is used, when the Torah describes the creation of humankind. 

Naaseh Adam b’Tzalmeinu k’Dmuteinu” — “Let Us create humankind in Our Image, and in Our Likeness.” Genesis 1:26 

Let Us create humankind? Who is God talking to? In Our Image? And in Our Likeness? Who is God referring to? 

Some of the commentators explain that God is asking permission from the angels. Rashi on Genesis 1:26  Others suggest that it’s a “royal We,” na’aseh, God is speaking to Himself in the majestic plural, a majestic plural giving honor to God and this final act of creation, the piece de resistance of all of creation. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:26 

However, I’d like to share with you a third interpretation, found in the writings of the Zohar. “Let us,” in the plural, means that creation of humankind includes both male and female. “In our image” refers to the wealthy amongst us. And “after our likeness” refers to the poor in our midst. 

The Zohar continues and states the following: When the rich and the poor are united as one, when they show compassion to each other, share with each other, and are benefactors to each other, that is how humankind should behave. Zohar 1:13b

The rich and the poor, states the Zohar, must be united together as one. Support and benefit from each other. 

In other words, when creating humankind, God creates a social contract with us. When God says Na’aseh Adam, that We will create humankind, He is referring to us, men and women, as His partners. Because we are only truly, completely fashioned once we live up to our side of the social contract, and fulfill our potential. Our image and likeness only become divine when we do our part. It is when people of opposite views, men and women of different social, economic statuses, work together. When we are united and show compassion towards each other. Only then is our creation complete.

What a powerful message to begin this new year, with a reminder that each one of us has the capacity to be in the image of God. We are full partners with God in our own creation when we live up to this responsibility. Each of us has the opportunity and capacity to complete the process that God has begun.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Riskin

Shabbat Shalom: Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – The beginning of our communal Torah readings once again with the Book of Genesis on the first Shabbat following the intensive festival period from Rosh Hashanah through to Shmini Atzeret-Simchat Torah is much more than a calendrical accident; the first chapters of …

Read more

Screenshot from Bereishit video

NEW  WEEKLY SERIES! 

“Parsha and Purpose”
Insights from Rabbi Kenneth Brander into Torah and Contemporary Life

Parshat Bereishit: “In the beginning, God created the Spiritual Start-Up Nation”

Shabbat Shalom: Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin    Efrat, Israel – “And God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) A sensitive reading of the biblical description of the creation of the world forces the reader to come to some understanding of the relationship between Judaism …

Read more

Rav Boaz Pash

Parshat Bereishit: Similar or Unique? Rabbi Boaz Pash is the Rosh Kollel of the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary‘s Torat Yosef Kollel Are we humans more alike, or more different from one another? To put it another way: do we spend more time looking for our differences or our similarities? To our dismay, we are, on the …

Read more

Yachad showing secular kids a torah scroll for the first time

Prior to Simchat Torah, Jewish identity coordinators from the OTS Yachad Program brought a Torah scroll to secular Israeli schoolchildren, encouraging them to take ownership of their sources and their heritage.    #HandsOnLearning#YachadMeansTogether#TheTorahSpeaksToEveryone#SimchatTorah#OTSLearningLivingLeading

Rabbi Kenneth Brander

Parshat Bereishit: Connecting Between Sacred and Profane  Rabbi Kenneth Brander  As we begin reading the Torah anew and are reintroduced to the story of Creation, one seemingly trivial point often goes unnoticed: the fact that humankind is conceived and born specifically on “yom vav” – the sixth day of Creation. Perhaps reflecting the very essence …

Read more

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8) By Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Why does the Torah, the word of God given to Moses as His legacy to the Jewish people, begin with an account of creation, going off into gardens of Eden and towers …

Read more

Parshat Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)  Rabbi David Stav  This Shabbat, we begin again at Breishit. The feelings we sense when renewing our study of the Torah are complex. On the one hand, these stories are familiar to many of us. Many of us were tested on them in school. Perhaps, the stories were shared with us when we were …

Read more

Parshat Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)  Rabbi David Stav  This Shabbat, we begin again at Breishit. The feelings we sense when renewing our study of the Torah are complex. On the one hand, these stories are familiar to many of us. Many of us were tested on them in school. Perhaps, the stories were shared with us when we were …

Read more