Bereshit - Weekly Torah Portion

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Try to imagine that moment of light, that instant which separates that darkness from the light, and with it the ability to estimate what is actually happening in the world in the dimension of time. When everything “was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep” it is impossible to comprehend what is happening, time does not exist, everything remains as it was. Then, at one-point time begins, light emerges and the entire way of thinking changes. “Bereshit” (in the beginning) is our new start of yet another cycle of reading of the Torah.

The Haftarah from the book of Isiah light has an important role to play. “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, / I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, / And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, / As a light to the nations, / To open blind eyes, / To bring out prisoners from the dungeon / And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” No less than three times the role of light is mentioned here. The first to be a beacon to others, the second to open the eyes of those to blind to see the truth, and the third to bring into the light those who find themselves imprisoned. In each case a person may find himself or herself sitting in the dark, not seeing the world, not feeling the heart beat of a world that progresses in time. Where there is light this change, it happens in the relation between light and darkness, where we can move forward, assess different things, and move along the illuminated between the shadows.

The prophet understands too well the fact that it is easier said than done. “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, / In paths they do not know I will guide them. / I will make darkness into light before them / And rugged places into plains. / These are the things I will do, / And I will not leave them undone.” But these do not fair well for those “Who trust in idols, / Who say to molten images, / ‘You are our gods.’”

In these days we too are required to open our eyes and ears. We must rethink many of the things we need to do in the future. This coronavirus pandemic, which we may have thought will skip our generation, much like others have skipped, more or less, several generations of the western world, will change our lives. It does so as we must swiftly and boldly develop new ways of addressing worldly issues. Implementation of new concepts will require courageous leadership that will draw a line in the sand, stating that from here on a new era begins. Abraham Lincoln did that with his position on slavery in the 19th century; Emmeline Pankhurst lead the concept of women’s suffrage to gain the right of vote for women in Britain and Ireland; Theodore Herzl did so too.

We shall not be able to continue to live our lives as if nothing had changed, as if nothing had happened, as if past leadership will really know where and how to march into the future. Fear, despair and anxiety are not workplans, if at all they are exactly the opposite of what is needed. Hope, faith and vision are building bricks that will serve us best as we march in between that dark formless void and the light that extends ahead of us. We will have our choices; we can always go back to those past leaders out of habit, and confidence. What is really important is that we make our choices not because what we or our parents have elected to do in the past. Rather we need to be thinking about the impact on our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

There is always the opportunity for our very own new beginning, our personal Bereshit. The prophet teaches us that if we want to be successful in it, so that we can reach the light, we must give it the opportunity to enter. This was it can influence us and then we can influence things.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Chodes Tov and Good Health.

Reuven Marko, 16 October 2020, 29 Tishrei, 5781

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