… And again we go back to the beginning. Torah contains two creation stories, together they tell how God created the world, and mankind was placed to cultivate, maintain, and repair God’s creation. How mankind should accomplish this goal comprises most of the rest of Torah.
“The earth was a chaos, unformed, and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness.” (Gen. 1:2) Then, over the next six days God separates the light from the darkness and creates day and night… parts the water from the land … creates vegetation to cover the land … and places fish in the water, birds in the air, and beasts on the ground.
And on the sixth day, God 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.” (Gen. 1:26) From this line we learn mankind’s purpose on earth. First, we see the relationship between man and God: “man was created in “our (God’s) image, after our (God’s) likeness.” (Gen. 1:2-25) However, we don’t know what the image or likeness of God really is. Later in Exodus God does tell Moses what attributes the Eternal possesses…. “Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin – yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.” This description of God could both describe the Eternal and also be a benchmark for human relationships. (Ex. 34:6-7) Second, we learn of mankind’s purpose on earth… to “hold sway” over all that is on earth. Mankind was to be the caretaker of the earth while, it can be assumed, God’s attention would focus on heavenly issues.
In the second story of the world’s creation the text states that God placed mankind in the Garden of Eden “to work it and keep it.” (Gen 2:15) In further instructions, the Eternal then told man that he could eat any of the plants in the Garden – except the Tree of All Knowledge. (Gen 2:16)
From a reading of the text, it seems that mankind is like God … with the exceptions of Knowledge, which could be gained by eating of the Tree of All Knowledge….. and immortality which can be obtained from the Tree of Life. This is confirmed by a statement made after Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of All Knowledge: “God then 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 life forever.’ So the Eternal God drove them out of the Garden of Eden….” (Gen. 3:22-23)
After being forced from the Garden of Eden as a result of eating the fruit of the Tree of All Knowledge, mankind had the knowledge of the Eternal… but, not the immortality. …. Mankind was still expected to participate in the partnership with God. God creates – mankind maintains and repairs. This partnership is expressed throughout the rest of Torah. BUT, after the Garden of Eden, mankind also has a freedom of choice. They could choose the way of God or take another, opposite path. and strive toward purely selfish goals.
From what we will read in coming weeks, it appears that mankind’s natural impulse to act in opposition to God’s plan. Then, as Torah tells us, God is angered, punishes mankind, and tells the people how to create the world of shalom – peace.
B’reishit is just the start of what will comprise an everlasting partnership between man and God… God creates – Then, mankind is given the responsibility to cultivate, maintain, and repair the world…. B’reishit and Torah show us how this can be done.