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Bereshit – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

Although we started to read Bereishit on Simchat Torah we will read it in its entirety this week as we continue the cycle of Sedrot for another year. We can start afresh. The coming year will house the same readings as last year but we will be older, see things differently and, if we are lucky, see things more wisely.

The creation story begins

וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם:
and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water

As parents it is a natural thing to “hover” over our children. We can try to give them our values but eventually it is their independence that we seek. By planting the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, (more accurately the Tree of “good and evil”) God seems to acknowledge that the real world would be full of uncertainties.

Why did Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of “good and evil? Our childhood stories call it an apple but, in the Sedra, it is just called” fruit”. (it was possibly a Latin mistranslation of the word “evil” as “malum” confusing it with “malus”, an apple). Adam sacrificed immortality for knowledge.

The early-middle 19th century Hasidic Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, Poland explained this decision by commenting

Adam said to himself, ‘It would be better that deaths were imposed upon me and my offspring throughout all generations, but I will not be without knowledge for even a brief moment of time'

Shammai argued that “It would have been better if human beings had not been created.” Hillel disagreed saying, “Better that humanity was created than that humanity had not been created.” The compromise they reached was “now that he has been created let him examine his past deeds”

The first thing a child asks is “why” and “what is that”. Being human contains the desire to learn and recognise the world around us.

We would go on to try God’s patience time and time again. Perhaps, by planting this forbidden Tree of good and evil, knowing the temptation it would arouse, God showed he trusted us. The Torah, described as the Tree of Life, was the other Tree planted by God Year after year it represents not just our faith in God but God’s faith in us.

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