Book of Genesis
October 28, 2016
When I was a kid, the personalities of the Book of Genesis (Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.) were bigger than life. The stories of the devious serpent of the Garden of Eden, Noah’s ark and the apocalyptic flood, Joseph being cast into a pit by his own brothers, then surfacing as 2nd in power to Pharaoh created in the young mind delightful yet frightening images of men and women dependent on God for eventual salvation. As I grew older, the biblical tales of youth were slowly displaced by the rational approach of the sciences. My biblical heroes of youth joined a pantheon of other childhood deities on a dusty shelf of distant memories.
At one point we all grow up both physically intellectually. Yet, Judaism insists every Jewish community re-read the Torah each year beginning with the Book of Genesis! As society becomes more technologically sophisticated and scientifically aware, the God of “reason and rational” pushes the God of “omnipotence and omnipresence” into the shadows. What, then, does the Book of Genesis have to offer? How do these ancient stories of creation, human development, and the One God bridge the growing chasm between faith and reason?
Rabbi Harold Kushner’s introduction to Genesis brings God out of the shadows and places the personalities and stories in a spiritually meaningful context. He speaks to my heart when he writes, “The opening chapters of Genesis are not a scientific account of the origins of the universe. The Torah is a book of morality, not cosmology. Its overriding concern, from the first verse to the last, is our relationship to God, truth about life rather than scientific truths. It describes the world God fashioned as “good,” a statement no scientific account can make.”
“God’s world is an orderly world, in which land and water each has its own domain, in which each species of plant and animal reproduces itself “after its own kind.” But it is also an unpredictable world, a world capable of growth and change and surprise, of love and pain, of glory and tragedy, not simply replication of what is, because it includes human beings who have the freedom to choose how they will act. And it is an unfinished world, waiting for human beings to complete God’s work of creating.”
The first lesson taught in the first chapter of the first book of the bible: All aspects of life-water, land, plant, animal, and human-are imbued with holiness. Success and happiness are the result of embracing one’s personal holiness (specialness) and training one’s senses to attune to the holiness in others.
Another year, let’s begin-“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . .”
Rabbi Howard Siegel