Torah Reading

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Shabbat – 10 October 2015 - Parasha Bereshit

As the last echoes of Simchat Torah die away, we are now faced with a Torah scroll turned to the very opening verses, which is exactly right as we begin once again the annual cycle of reading portions each Shabbat. The first is called Bereshit, taken as always from a word in the opening sentence. Indeed, the opening word itself in this instance.

Here we read the very familiar story of the creation. But is it as familiar as we think? If we were asked in a trivia quiz what was created on day 5, how many would get the answer right? So, to help those who know it, but don’t know it:

  • Day 1 – Heaven and Earth, Light and darkness
  • Day 2 – Separation of water created above and below heaven
  • Day 3 – Separation of waters below into dry land and seas. Creation of vegetation, seeds and fruit trees.
  • Day 4 – Sun, Moon and Stars
  • Day 5 – Living creatures in the seas. Fowl flying in the air.
  • Day 6 – Land-based animal kingdom. Humankind – male and female. Latter to have dominion over and rule over all other living creatures in the seas, skies and on land.
  • Day 7 – Shabbat

Then comes the familiar – or not so familiar – story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This begins with a replay of day 6 and a more detailed description of the forming of man and woman, then placing them in Gan Eden, then allowing them to eat of any tree except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But of course the serpent deceives them into disobeying God’s rule resulting in their expulsion from Eden.

In Genesis Chapter 4 we have the first reference to the man ‘knowing’ his wife leading to the birth of Cain, tiller of the earth, and subsequently Abel, keeper of the flocks. When God favoured Abel’s offering od first fruits over those brought by Cain, the latter became very jealous and eventually committed the first recorded murder in the Torah.

Then comes a rather remarkable genealogy, remarkable not just for the detail, but how long everyone was recorded as living. For example, Adam and Eve had a third son, Seth, presumably to replace Abel. Adam lived altogether 930 years. Seth lived for 912 years. And so it continued down the generations with most named sons living well over 900 years.

In this time man fell to evil ways and God regretted having created man. He decided to destroy mankind and start over again. But Noah found favour in God’s eyes and so the story will continue next week.

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