This opening Sedra of the Torah, Bereishit, ("in the beginning"), has been subject to wide analysis not just in the Jewish world but elsewhere. Alternative descriptions of creation are set out in other religions. For us, what sets this Parashah on a different level, is that it sees us in the image of God.
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ
And God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”
Unlike the creation stories of other cultures, such as the Sumerian and the Egyptian, the Torah is not a history: a mechanical recital of a sequence of events. It is an ongoing interaction between us and God.
There are two accounts of the creation in the Sedra. It is only after the eating from the Tree of Knowledge that the dynamic changes.
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר | יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֗ים הֵ֤ן הָֽאָדָם֙ הָיָה֙ כְּאַחַ֣ד מִמֶּ֔נּוּ לָדַ֖עַת ט֣וֹב וָרָ֑ע
Now the Lord God said, "Behold man has become like one of us, having the ability of knowing good and evil“
As infants, our first question, when looking around is to ask “what is this?” We go on to ask “where is this?” and then the question “what should we do? It is a primeval search for understanding the world.
God has just created the world
וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד
And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good
The Houses of Shammai and Hillel always argued. Shammai thought:
It would have been better if human beings had not been created
Hillel responded saying:
Better that humanity was created than that humanity had not been created
They concluded that:
Now that he has been created, let him examine his past deeds
We too are capable of creation and we know good and evil. What sort of world are we creating? Can we stand back and say it was very good? Mankind was made last and we take on an ongoing responsibility.
At each of the momentous occasions we hear the words ַ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים “And God said.” Words are important. If we speak up for what is right we may help create a better world.