Beresheit 5782 – Again

By: Dr. Joel Roffman

Bereshit. Again. Weren’t we just here? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we had recently shut down because of the pandemic Did a year really pass this quickly? Sunrise, sunset. How quickly flow the years. At least most of us are back in shul again. Still grappling with the pandemic, though.

There were Adam and Eve, in paradise. Just one thing, Gd tells them. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Leave that particular tree alone. Otherwise, have a great time. So what happens? The serpent coaxes Eve to go ahead, have a bite. Mmmm, pretty good. “Hey Adam, try this one.” Fools that they were. And when Gd confronts them, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. Neither takes responsibility.

So Gd tells the woman that as punishment for her disobeying Gd, not only would the pain of giving birth be intense, but, as the Talmud interprets, the emotional strain of raising children will also be intense. How true! And the man is told that not only will he now have to toil each day to raise his crops, but there will be weeds that he will have to subdue!

Why couldn’t Adam and Eve just enjoy the garden, as instructed? So Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. Eve bears Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Again – no remorse or responsibility. “How wretched these humans are,” Gd might have said to the angels. “I made a big mistake here.”

But Gd was in a bit if a fix. If Gd didn’t create humankind and give them free will, no one would have been capable of understanding Gd or that, in fact, acknowledge that Gd even exists. The earth would have been filled with robots, lying around that ever-growing garden, eating fruit. So Gd created us because in a sense, Gd needed us. Additionally, Gd had faith in us.

Well, it didn’t work out so well, as we’ve seen. After the Adam and Eve, and the Cain and Abel fiascos, Gd “Saw how great was our wickedness” and wipes them all out and tries again with Noah. As we will see, Noah gets drunk, and, well, that didn’t work out so well either.

But Gd doesn’t give up. “One more shot,” Gd told the angels. Abraham comes along, and although there are many fits and starts and lots of conflicts, maybe there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The whole story of humanity and, ultimately, of the Jewish people began. Abraham actually agues with Gd for justice and mercy. (Remember how he argued for Gd not to destroy Sodom.) “Maybe I can work with this group,” Gd reportedly told the angels.

But all kinds of awful stuff happens. Murder. Jealousy. Adultery. Eventually, Gd had to codify behavior with the Ten Commandments. And lots more of them – hundreds of commandments, in fact. Oi!! Many of us keep trying to get things right. The Torah is our roadmap how. In Ha’azinu last week, I recalled how many years later, Moses called us crooked, perverse, unworthy, dull and witless. It reminded me of how when I was young and did something . . .unworthy . . .my mother used to tell me I must have been left behind the door when the brains were passed out.

Temptation to do evil is ever-present. We read in Bereshit of how sin couches at our door, yet we can be its master.

Well, we’ve done our repenting. So beginning with Bereishit, let’s keep trying to do better. Trying like we mean it! We’re all toiling up the steep human righteousness hill. Just as Moses never made it to the Promised Land, we may never get to the very top of this hill, but we must never tire from the climb. And to remind you what I said in Ha’azinu, we’re all like Moses. Ever striving, although we may not get fully there.

After so many pagan civilizations have come and gone, the Israel of Abraham and Moses, of Sarah of Ruth, and of Miriam still lives on. Whether or not we have faith in Gd, Gd seems to have faith in us. Let us all merit that faith in 5782.