So begins the entire Torah. This week we are reading the very first Torah portion in the very first book, Bereshit, and we read of creation. There is creation of the cosmos, order and light from chaos and darkness, as well as creation of humanity. Torah is neither science, nor history, but it is the narrative and collective memory of the Jewish people. Torah study is a mitzvah for all adult Jews, and while anytime is a good time for Torah study, the opportunity to embark on the journey “in the beginning” should not be overlooked.
Many of us think of Torah study as an intellectual pursuit, but opening our hearts to Torah’s life lessons requires trust and faith in the value of the text’s eternal nature. An old Chasidic adage explains that the Torah begins with the letter bet and ends with the letter lamed (the last word being Yisrael). The letters lamed and bet together spell out the word lev, meaning ‘heart.’ This teaches that one is not able to internalize the lessons of Torah unless its study is both an intellectual as well as emotional endeavor.
This week Temple Am Echad begins our cycle of Torah reading with the very first of the b’nai mitzvah of the year. Please join our live stream service on Shabbat morning as Chloe O’Callaghan is called to the Torah and teaches on this week’s Torah portion, Bereshit. It just might be the beginning of your own heart opening to Torah.
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush