B’reishit (“In the beginning”)

  B’reishit – Genesis 1:1 to 6:8 – On the sixth day God creates man and women “in our image, after our likeness.” What is meant by “in our image.” Is mankind like God? If so what are the similarities?   ———-  And now we start all over again…. “When God was about to create heaven and earth, the earth was a chaos, unformed , and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness. The God’s spirit glided over the face of the waters, and God said, ‘Let there be light!’ and there was light. And when God saw how good the light was, God divided the light from darkness; God then call the light Day, and call the darkness, Night, and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Gen. 1:1-5)

Some may ask what is this light? … God didn’t create the sun and moon until day four. I believe this is the light of the universe as it was created. There was light before our sun was formed.

Others have stated that the light isn’t the light we see with our eyes… but, the light of knowledge. It was all the ideas of the universe that were created on the first day… the light that shines brightly in our minds … without it, there is darkness.

Reading on through the parsha, I find the parsha, in many ways is the blueprint for the rest of Torah. On the second through fifth days God creates a world. At the end of each day the Eternal says that it is GOOD. On the sixth day, God creates the animals and creeping things “and God saw how good it was.”

“God now said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness and let them hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds  of the sky, over the beasts, over all the earth, over all that creeps upon the earth. So God created the human beings in (the divine) image, creating them in the image of God, creating (them) male and female… God then surveyed all that God had made, and look – it was VERY GOOD.” (Gen. 1:20-31)

Other gods of other people also create the worlds that people live in …. But, the God of Torah creates a world where man is a partner… God creates … then man (and woman) maintain the world.

What does it mean that God created human beings “in our image, after our likeness?” What does “image” refer to? …. We don’t know what God looks like … or if God actually has a physical presence. Maybe the following quotes from the portion will help us discover what this “image” is … and what it means to understand the roles of man and God.

  • “God said to them (Adam and Eve), ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and tame it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over every animal that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
  • God places the “Tree of Life and the Tree of All Knowledge in” the middle of the garden where man and women will live. (Gen 2:9)
  • God places man in the “Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Gen. 2:15)
  • God “formed the wild animals and the birds of the sky out of the soil and brought the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man called it, that became the creature’s name.” (Gen. 2:19 ) The sages teach that knowledge of a name gives power over an individual. I see the actions of God creating and man naming as a partnership.
  • After Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge God said: “ ‘Look, the humans are like us, knowing all things. Now they may even reach out to take fruit from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Eternal God drove them out of the Garden of Eden ….” (Gen. 2:22-3)

To review, God created man differently than all the other living things on earth. Man was created in God’s “image.” By eating from the Tree of Knowledge, man became like God, “knowing all things.” So Torah tells us that man (and women) “know all things” … and are to “hold sway” over all the other living things of the earth. And today, we see that man also “holds sway” over the minerals in the ground and the air we breath.

But, along with this power, man (and woman) have free will to do as they wish. … even before they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. If they didn’t have the power of choice they wouldn’t have eaten what God had forbidden.

Now, the Torah tells us, mankind both knows “all things,” including what is right and wrong, what is good and evil…. But mankind also has the free will to choose.

We read that Cain and Able brought an offering to God. Cain brought “some of his harvest.” Abel brought an offering from “among the choice lambs of his flock and their fattest parts.” God approved the offering of Abel and did not approve Cain’s offering. (Gen. 4:3-4) Cain became angry, turned on his brother, and killed him. (Gen. 4:8)

If Cain knew all things, he should have known that killing was wrong… yet he made a choice and he killed. As a result God punished Cain.

Then in the last paragraph of this week’s parsha we see how God views his creation ten generations after creation: “When the Eternal saw how great was the wickedness of human beings in the earth, that the direction of their thoughts was nothing but wicked all the time, the Eternal regretted having made human beings on earth, and was heartsick. So the Eternal thought: ‘I will wipe the humans whom I created from off the face of the earth … For I rue the day I made them.” (Gen. 6:5-7) God then sees Noah … and attempts to change the world for the better … with, people God sees as better … and God gives rules for living to mankind.

And thus, we have the major theme for the rest of Torah. God and mankind must work in partnership. But, mankind has free will to act for the welfare of the world … or the welfare of self and selfishness. Through the words of Torah, God informs mankind what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. Mankind is told that by choosing good, by choosing right, the world will be better. The choice is still up to mankind.

Earl Sabes

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