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Parshat B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)

On Simchat Torah we read V’zot Habracha, the closing parasha, or portion, of the Torah and then return to B’reishit, the opening parasha, immediately. B’reishit describes the origins of the world: the six days of creation, declaring God’s sovereignty over the entire universe. This burst of God’s energy culminates (supposedly) with the creation of humanity on the sixth day. It’s all good until you keep reading and discover B’reishit actually offers a second and very different version of the creation of humanity.

B’reishit first describes how God creates both man and woman together in the Divine image, and charges them to, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Gen 1:27) In the second telling, God forms just man out of dust of the earth and,” …Breathed into his nostril a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) God then places this lone man in the Garden of Eden, “…To work it and guard it.” (Gen 2:15)
Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveichik (1903–1993; rabbi, philosopher, and seminal figure in modern Orthodox Judaism) describes the first Adam as instinctive and dynamic, reacting to his senses and imposing his thoughts and will on the world. The second Adam is soulful and receptive, accepting the world as it is and searching for God within it. Soloveichik suggests the two creation stories present not two different Adams, but rather two human dimensions within Adam, and by extension, within each human being.

Parashat B’reishit, and the Garden of Eden story in particular, present a defining human trait: the ability to choose between our primal instincts and our souls. It’s a struggle as old as creation.

Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom



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