Bereshit: Seeing Beauty

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Bereshit

This year, our theme will be looking for links between the weekly
Torah readings and Jewish liturgy: there are lots of connections
between the weekly readings and the daily, weekly and festival
prayers. We might not do this each and every week, but certainly this
week, when we start our yearly reading with Bereshit, the story of
creation, is a good week to start. Every single day, in the daily
prayers said on weekdays, Shabbat and festivals, we praise God for the
“work of creation,” bringing the very idea of creation into our daily
spiritual awakening.

More specifically, we praise God as the “creator of lights” and the
“one who renews daily the work of creation.” This happens before the
Shma- the affirmation of Divine Oneness- with the blessing of
gratitude for Torah between them.

Now, I can hear the questions already- OK, we know the Torah says that
God created the lights of the heavens and all that, but we find more
plausible the scientific story of creation: a Big Bang followed by the
expansion and cooling of the cosmos and eventual slow evolution of
life on Earth.

To me, there is no contradiction- none- between the creation narrative
of the Torah, its poetic rendering in our daily prayers, and
scientific understandings of how the world came to be. In fact, I
think the siddur gives us an opening to make a connection between an
understanding of cosmic unfolding and the spiritual awareness evoked
by prayer: by speaking of God as the One “Who daily renews the work of
creation,” we can see creation not as a single event, either a big
bang or “Let There Be Light,” but as a sacred process of life becoming
and renewing, a continual growth and development of Being on this
terribly beautiful planet. Creation happens not in seven days or seven
billion years but every day, as life on Earth interconnects and
unfolds; the Torah doesn’t teach us science but instead points us to
perceiving all of creation as infused with the Divine Presence.

When we praise God for daily making creation happen, we”re choosing
to orient ourselves towards perceiving the Divine in all that is- what
could be more beautiful than living in a world where the Sacred is
manifested in each leaf and bud?

That is the world Judaism opens to us, and invites us to see.

Shabbat Shalom,

RNJL

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