Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bereshit 5779
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Bereshit, Light and Renewal
This week we begin again the annual reading of the Torah with Parashat Bereshit. This parasha begins with the creation of the world. The first thing created by God is light. As it is written,
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3)
Without light we would not be able to see and survive. That is why we thank God every day, during the morning prayers, for having created light. The first blessing before the reading of the three paragraphs of Shema Israel says,
Praised are you Adonai our God, who rules the universe, creating light and fashioning darkness, ordaining the order of all creation (see for example the Siddur Sim Shalom we use every Shabbat, on page 107)
The famous Chassidic rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (Ukraine, 1740–1809) noticed that the blessing is written in the present tense. It says that God creates the light, not that He created it. Why is that? According to Rabbi Levi, this reminds us that the creation processes are constant. They did not cease even for a moment since the creation of the world. That is why we say in the weekday morning blessing before Shema Israel, “in Your goodness, day after day You renew creation.”
This insight by Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev echoes a Jewish teaching about how God creates the world. According to this theory (which is, of course, not the only one you will find in Jewish thought) the creation of the world was not an event that happened only at a specific time. The creation of the world began at a certain point, but God continues to create and recreate the world every moment. And human beings play a vital role in this process.
Rabbi Aaron of Karlin (Prague, 1736–1772) added that the same way God renews his creation in his goodness, we too should renew something in our life every day. Rabbi Aaron concluded that if a person does not have something new every day, that is a sign that he also does not have anything old!
In this Shabbat Bereshit, the Shabbat in which we renew the annual Torah reading, I invite you to try to renew your life, at least with a little difference every day. We must make our best effort to try to find a chidush, to renew something in our life, so that every day we continue the process of growing and recreating ourselves. If we only continue what we have always been doing, just through inertia, then we fossilize ourselves and stop the creative process we should engage in throughout our life. Let’s get on the move and look for ways to renew our lives in this year 5779. May the new cycle of annual Torah readings bring blessing and renewal to our lives!