Torah Study Notes 10-18-14

October 18, 2014
With Rabbi B. A record seventeen people in attendance. He grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Israel and served in the IDF. He has four sons – one of whom is in the IDF now. Everything of life is in the Torah but we cannot approach it without opening our souls. So we chanted a song to get “warmed up.” This is a very special Shabbat because we are starting the Torah again. Between lamed – the last letter of the Torah – and the first letter – bet – is the heart – the heart of the Hebrew people.
Genesis 1:1 – the creation of the world was a decision of God. He created the darkness and the light. What was better? SamF: “Sweeter is the light that comes from the darkness.”
1:6 In the Jewish tradition the day starts in the evening. God appears to be speaking to someone. Art M: it appears that there was water everywhere – not a void. SB: Look at the first letter – a Bet. Why is that? It is in a form that suggests a contained space for the world. We are not invited to look outside of that space. AF: You need light to learn – it is much more important than darkness. BR: Was God uncertain that light would be good – as it states in verse 4? SB: In my opinion he was uncertain. The shape of the letter bet suggests that we must look inward for these answers. As to God’s intentions – it is not your business – you will not understand it. You cannot change or fully understand the past. AM: You need a retina – a human being – to “see” light. It arguably does not exist without an observer. LL: What about dark matter and dark energy? Modern physics suggests that there is much of the universe we cannot see. It is significant that humanity was created at the end of this process of creation. AF: Chaos suggests unpredictability. Shira: The entire Torah is about making order out of chaos – it is a process of separation and the imposition of order and rhythm. SFink: When God sees the light it is our first description of him as anthropomorphic.
1:9 The third day. If he “said” who was he talking to? Shira: There is power in words. A discussion of good and evil ensued. LL: There is an old joke about chaos. A doctor, an engineer and a lawyer were having a debate over which was the oldest profession. The doctor explained that medicine was the oldest because God created woman out of Adam’s rib – hence the first surgical procedure. The engineer scoffed and noted that out of the chaos God created the universe – the first great engineering feat. The lawyer smiled and said “Gentlemen who do you think created the chaos?”
1:14 Let there be light. The greater to govern the day and the lesser to govern the stars. There is a midrash about why the moon governs the night. Why? It is a literary creation reflecting what humanity thought about the importance of light and dark at the time.
1:20 Creating fish and birds.
1:24 Who is God speaking to? Who is “us?” Make humans in “our” image? This is not an attribute exclusive to Jews. This addresses all of humanity. Rashi argued that the first human was androgynous.
1:26 Dominion over the earth and the creatures. It was “very good.” The holiness of the Sabbath comes from God’s blessing of the day. It is a day of satisfaction.
2:1 Completed now were the heaven and earth.
Note: It is Rabbi B’s practice to read the Torah from beginning to end. He does not follow the three year cycle.
See handouts – the JPS Torah Commentary (p. 3 and 4) by Nahum M. Sarna and a Brief Introduction to the Old Testament (p. 27 and 25) by Michael D. Coogan . In the former it is suggested that Genesis contains fragments of older cosmologies that existed in Israel. “It is a quest for meaning and a statement of a religious position….The quintessential teaching is that the universe is wholly the purposeful product of divine intelligence.”
Coogan agrees that the narrative was adapted from other sources in the ancient Near East. He adds that there is not a creation of something out of nothing – a later theological notion. Also the structure is a literary arrangement with creations on each of the first three days paralleled by successive creations on each of the next three days. It ends with divine rest on the seventh day and thus emphasizes the Sabbath.

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