OVERVIEW OF PORTION: (from A Torah Commentary for Our Times — Rabbi Harvey Fields)
Bereshit may be translated as “In the beginning” or “At first.” The Torah begins by telling us how God created the heavens and earth, human beings, and the Sabbath. It continues with the stories of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and of their sons, Cain and Abel, and it concludes with the report that God regretted having created human beings because of all their wickedness. For that reason, God decided to destroy everything on earth except for Noah and his family.
In Genesis 4:7 we read: “Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right sin couches at the door; its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master.”
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (in White Russia — 1745-1812, founder of Chabad), teaches:
“This is what this verse suggests: ‘If you do right’ – if you seek to better your ways, if you, yourself, are filled with mitzvot and good deeds – ‘there is uplift’ – you will be able to support, and to tolerate, the whole world. You will be able to bear everyone’s deeds. ‘But if you do not do right’ – if you, yourself, are filled with sin – ‘sin crouches at the door – you will see opportunities to sin in every doorway, you will see sins everywhere.
With yesterday behind us, our High Holy Days and Fall Festival season has now come to completion. The journey into the New Year has been filled with many gatherings for communal worship, with fasting, with heshbon ha-nefesh – soul-searching, with resolutions and, I hope, a sense of renewal. Now, with Simchat Torah past, we turn fully to the year 5772 which is arrayed before us with its myriad opportunities for learning, worship, acts of tikkun olam and coming to join in community. May we reach inward to the commitments uttered in the depths of our souls during these Holy Days so that we may reach beyond ourselves to join in enriching one another’s lives in the year ahead. Let us take the promise we uttered to ourselves –and perhaps to God — and lift them from words to reality. Let us now stand to say, “Count me — I am in!” Here we go again — from Bereisheet — the cycle begins anew!
Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis