Reading: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8
Haftarah Reading: Isiah 42:5 – 43:10
Parsha Summary – Bereishit
Creation of the World
God creates the whole world in six days.
- Day One: light and dark, which He names day and night
- Day Two: a separation between the waters of heaven and earth
- Day Three: the oceans and dry land; plants including grass and fruit trees
- Day Four: the cosmos: sun, moon, stars, and planets
- Day Five: fish and birds
- Day Six: all other animals and insects; people
God commands the male and female He created to “be fruitful and multiply”, and appoints them as custodians over the brand new Earth and everything in it. God is proud of His creations – Genesis 1:31 reads:
And God saw everything that He had made, and behold! It was very good. And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.
On the seventh day, God rests. He blesses and sanctifies the day, and the seventh day became Shabbat (literally “rest” in Hebrew).
The Tree of Knowledge and Creation of Woman
God places the newly-made man into a lush, flourishing area called the Garden of Eden, and commands Him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge on pain of death. He then brings every animal to the man to be named, then decides that man needs a helpmate. God puts the man to sleep and uses one of his ribs to create a woman.
The Garden of Eden and the Snake
A snake tells Eve that she and Adam are forbidden from eating from the Tree of Knowledge because God fears that it will make them as knowledgeable as Him. He convinces her that they won’t die; Eve eats the tree’s fruit and gives some to Adam. They realize that they’re naked and create clothing from fig leaves.
Adam and Eve hear God approaching, and hide in the bushes. God asks Adam if he ate from the tree; Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. The snake is cursed to slither on the ground and be hated by mankind; the woman is punished with pain in childbirth; the man is told he must toil all his life. Adam and Eve are evicted from the garden.
Cain and Abel
Adam and Eve have two children. Cain and Abel. They each offer sacrifices to God: Cain’s fruit is rejected and Abel’s sheep is accepted. In a fit of jealousy, Cain kills Abel, and God punishes him by making him a nomad.
The rest of the week’s portion lists the names and ages of the ten generations from Adam to Noah.
One of Judaism’s most beautiful ideas is called tikkun olam – repairing the world – and it comes from this week’s Torah reading. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put Adam into the Garden of Eden לעבדה ולשמרה – to work it and to guard it.
Lush, green and beautiful, the newly created Garden of Eden was an idealized view of the perfect world. Adam had just two tasks: don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and take care of the Garden. Man’s sole duty to something other than himself was to care for the world. Looking after the planet is so important that the first thing humankind are told to do is care for the Earth.
That responsibility hasn’t lessened with time. It’s a Jewish responsibility to repair our world, and just like Adam had to look after the Garden of Eden, it is our divine mission to care for the world around us and look after our planet.