Beraysheet -- Genesis 1:1-6:8

Jan_Brueghel_de_Oude_en_Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Het_aards_paradijs_met_de_zondeval_van_Adam_en_EvaIn attempting to capture the fleeting nature of creative genesis, T. S. Elliot (1888 - 1965) once famously wrote in The Four Quartets:

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.

This week, the story of creation we read in Genesis 1:1-6:8 is a story of beginnings. Much like the painter, the poet, and the musician struggle with the fleeting nature of creative inspiration and the creation that ensues, so too the divine Creator creates more than once. Like a potter shaping sculptural works from clay, the Creator forms the first human body from the unformed earth and then breathes into it in order to bring the soul into being. From this state of radical loneliness, a help mate, Eve, is formed for Adam.

In the Garden of Eden, everything is given, the only caveat being the command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The ascent and descent of humanity can be traced back to this moment of choice: to eat or not to eat from the forbidden fruit? Rather than achieving eternal life from the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve make a choice that results in their being banished from the Garden, and humanity's forever experiencing death and mortality -- the human body inevitably returning to the earth.

The narrative continues with the human condition extended through progeny. The sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel leads to many more such conflicts in Genesis; more immediately, it leads to the first murder, and the perpetrator, Cain, becomes a rootless wanderer. The third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, leads eight generations to his descendant, Noah. Creation begins again with Noah, a righteous man, alone in a corrupt world.

Read with these ascents and descents in mind, one wonders if the end of humanity, its destruction in the flood, and recreation thereafter is all inscribed in the beginning moment of creation? Are the end and the beginning of these episodes in the human condition “always there” and, if so, what does this teach us about the way we wander and dwell in the here and now? Let us consider the artistry of living amidst the endings “always there” in each new beginning this year.

- Rabbi Glazer

Image credit: "The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man," by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, 1615

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