Parashat Bereshit (In the Beginning)

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu laasok b’divrei Torah.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to engage with words of Torah.

In the beginning is G-d.

Every story in the Bible and nearly ever facet of our lives follow from this fact. It’s through creation that anything and everything that matters in our lives comes into a form that even can matter to us. It’s through creation that we are even around to find meaning and to assign importance to anything else.

In the beginning though, is G-d.

And here in this week’s Torah portion, G-d separates light from darkness. Everything else we study, experience, explore, and investigate will be done essentially in the light, or at least after this separation occurs, but there’s a little kernel of G-d’s nature hidden here too.

In the darkness is G-d.

In some ways, this truth connects the beginning of Torah to its conclusion. There, Joshua is called to replace Moses, yet all around this change in leadership are dire warnings about the fate of the Israelites when they enter the Promised Land. For all of the build-up to the honoring of this covenant between G-d and the Israelites, there’s a real cliffhanger of a conclusion to the Torah. Doom and agony following failure seem to be their fate, as a moral darkness is foretold by both Moses and G-d.

Yet here in the beginning, all that G-d will create begins in the darkness.

So often when we are struggling or when we have truly hit rock bottom in our lives, we feel incredibly alone. When tragedy strikes us, when we search our souls for where we have sinned and cannot fathom that anything we have done could have possibly caused the circumstances we are experiencing, we feel so very powerless. When everything before us seems insurmountable, and when life becomes so dark that we cannot even dream a future out of it, we feel the depth of hopelessness.

Nevertheless, this week’s Torah portion invites us to be present in these feelings as vital components to the story of creation still unfolding in our own lives. G-d’s example is laid out plainly for us. In times of hopelessness, we must seek to separate the light from the dark. We must seek out those things that renew our spirit and that fill our hearts with an eager hope. We must find the tasks which are achievable, carefully guard each and every choice we can make, and walk forward knowing that challenges, obstacles, injustices, and failures are the geography of this world, no matter our intentions or best laid plans.

Perhaps most importantly, this week’s scripture teaches us that when all of that still feels too impossible and when the darkness is everywhere and in everything, we are not alone. G-d is with us. G-d will create entire new books to our life story that render the darkness merely a footnote, so easy to overlook.

This moment may feel like the end and like a terrible fall from some former glory. Consider another perspective, however. Everything that has already happened to you (and even by your own hand) could instead be described simply as “in the beginning.” What you make of tomorrow remains your choice to make.

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