Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah-B’reishit

For 27 years (Rabbinical School and post Ordination) I have finished the Holy Days and then finished Sukkot …and then relaxed. The “new year” was over and I could sit back and relax.

This week, we finished the holy days, observed the holiday Memorial (Yizkor) service, and now … I am experiencing something brand new. This year, there is no let down. There is no sense of exhaustion and relief. This year, as we celebrated the renewal of creation, my first grandson joined the world. As we begin reading the creation story over again, I am living it in a whole new way. The holy days are not over; holding my new grandson, they are just beginning. 

SO if we look at the Torah text this week, we witness the beginning. The text really does NOT say that this is the beginning of all … everything, only the beginning of this story and the way in which it renews every year. This week we read the first set of 10 Commands in the Torah. Appropriately, they are the commands of creation. 10 times, God speaks something into being in the first chapter of Genesis. In turn, in the morning liturgy, we recite this Biblical precept early in the worship service. 

I ask students why this prayer is not only a part of the liturgy, but also, why it would appear so early in the service. Torah teaches that God creates with speech. Torah also tells us that God created us in the image of divinity. We create with speech. Every time we open our mouths, we create harmony or discord; affection or disillusion; joy or despair. Over the course of this political season, we, mostly unfortunately, bear witness to this truth. The tone of the election rhetoric pits us against each other, and causes us to distance ourselves from one another. 

All of this alienation exists because of the power of speech. We have the opportunity to change the course of discourse and turn back the tide of hate. The first words of Torah teach us that God brought forth light out of chaos. We, too have the power to bring forth light from this chaos, and as I look at my grandson, I believe we have an obligation to do so. The late Elie Wiesel said that the only thing worse than hate was apathy in the face of hate. We can sit by and dismiss the ugliness and let it proliferate … or we can honor our responsibility to the next generations by speaking the words that create peace. Shabbat Shalom.