“In the beginning”
Tishrei 26, 5779/October 5, 2018
“In the beginning… “ A lot of things happened in six days. Between “chaos and void” to “be fruitful and multiply,” an entire world came into being.
“In the beginning,” or to be more true to the exact Hebrew grammar employed, “In the beginning of… “ In the beginning of what, we are not told.
And how long were each of these six days? Were they made up of twenty four hours consisting of 86,400 seconds? Or were they made up of twenty four eons, consisting of billions of trillions of years? Or did all six days fit into a fraction of a nano second?
These are questions that we can explore endlessly, yet never arrive at a definitive answer. But one thing we know for sure, and that is that creation was good. Even very good. We know that because G-d said so. G-d said it on day one, and G-d said it two times on day three, again on day four and again on day five. And on the conclusion of creation on day six G-d said it was “very good.” Creation, however long it took or didn’t take G-d to bring into being, was good. Is good.
In fact, everything was only good, all of creation perfectly reflecting G-d’s will, until G-d looked at man, the same man that He created and declared good on day six, and in the blink of an eye later said, “It is not good that man is alone.”
Where does “not good” come from? If all of G-d’s creation is good, from whence this fly in the ointment? And what did “alone” mean to G-d that He pronounced it “not good?” We have no record that man (Adam) complained of loneliness. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, a paradise, void of want. All he could dream of was at his fingertips. Man did not petition G-d for a partner, a helpmeet. Man, based on all the evidence we have before us, was content. Life was good.
If G-d’s indictment of loneliness wasn’t a response to man’s discontent, then what was it an expression of? The loneliness that G-d was bemoaning was not man’s loneliness, but G-d’s. G-d was lonely. Profoundly lonely. G-d had created an entire world, a good world, yet G-d had no one to talk to. True, G-d created man and gave man instructions, but man has not spoken a word in return. Not a yes or a no. Not even a thank you.
Was G-d projecting His loneliness on man? Or did G-d perceive that if He, G-d, is lonely, then man, created in His image must likewise be lonely? If G-d can be lonely then G-d can be sad, and how profoundly sad must G-d have been. So G-d lept into action. He induced loneliness in man by parading before him all the beasts of the field, each with their own mate, “but for man, he did not find a helpmate opposite him.” (Genesis 2:20) And so G-d created woman from man’s rib and man, upon observing woman, spoke for the very first time: “This time, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ishah (woman) because this one was taken from ish (man).” (ibid 2:23)
Now that man had a mate, love was possible, and therefore loneliness was possible. The creation of woman, a helpmeet, brought the potential of loneliness into being for man, while, at the same time, served as an inoculation against loneliness. The fundamental human relationship between man and woman would pave the way for the fundamental relationship, which G-d so desired, between man and G-d. No sooner had woman been created then man and woman conversed and partook of a meal together, and then man and woman were talking to G-d. True, they had disobeyed G-d’s orders, true, they had tried to hide from G-d, but a dialogue had begun. And this is what G-d wanted. This was good.
Teshuvah, the ability to repent, to reform, to change one’s ways, was created by G-d well before the heavens and the earth, (as noted by our sages in Tractate Pesachim), in anticipation of this moment. For as difficult as man’s relationship with G-d may be at times, it is teshuvah which makes it possible. With teshuvah in the world, man and woman and G-d need never be alone. Man’s relationship with G-d will prove to be full of thorns and thistles, but in time man will seek out G-d and G-d will seek out man. A covenant will be made and man will walk with G-d, and never the twain shall be alone. And it is good.
Tune in to this week’s Temple Talk, with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, as they jump right into parashat B’Reishith and the recreation of the world, discuss Rabbi Richman’s visit to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem, and ponder the relevance of the first Rashi in the Torah: G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish People!
This week, the people of Israel begin anew the annual cycle of Torah readings, with parashat B’reishith, the first Torah portion of the Book of Genesis. Join Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Chaim Richman for this week’s edition of Temple Talk as they review their experiences of the Sukkot holiday, plunge back into the ‘routine’ of life, and share insights in the enigmatic and elusive Torah portion of B’reishith.
The world is created anew each day by G-d as an expression of G-d’s love for His creation. Live each day anew for each day comes but once and each day holds a world of potential never before fulfilled, just waiting for you, today, to make the most of G-d’s creation. Click here to view Rabbi Richman’s teaching on parashat Bereshith (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8).