July 18, 2024
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Parshat Bereishit

As we begin the Torah reading cycle once more, we also start a new haftarah cycle; “new,” because, for the last three months (since parshat Pinchas), each haftarah (with the exception of Parshat Ha’azinu), reflected the historical significance of that specific time of year. These were haftarot warning of the approaching Churban, or haftarot consoling Israel after the Churban — with prophecies promising our return to the land and describing the glorious future that awaits us. Now, however, we return to haftarot that remind us of events found in the Torah reading or concepts that are expressed in the parshat hashavua.

For this week’s parsha of Bereishit, the parsha of the creation, Chazal saw it fit to read from sefer Yishayahu — in the 42nd and 43rd perakim — whose opening pasuk quotes the words of Hashem, and describe Him as “Boreh hashamayim … roka ha’aretz …—Who creates the heavens and …Who stretches out the earth.” Obviously, these words echo the initial verse of our parsha, “Bereishit bara elokim et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz — In the beginning of Hashem’s creating of the heavens and the earth.” Yet, as we have seen so often in these past essays, there is, inevitably, more than one connection to the parsha — which can explain why our rabbis established that specific section of Nevi’im to be read on a specific Torah portion. And that is true, in this case as well.

Rav Yissachar Yaakovson enlightens us by pointing out how the essential verbs used throughout the Torah’s story of creation, “yatzar,” “bara,” and “ asa,” are used as well by the Navi Yishayahu to describe God’s relationship with Israel: “… ko amar Hashem bora’acha Yaakov v’yotzercha Yisra’el.” The Navi tells the people that God is their creator — the creator of Israel, and of Jacob — that is, the Creator of their nation. And, just as Hashem created Adam and sent him out of Gan Eden into “galut” when he sinned — so too, Rav Yehuda Shaviv explains — Yishayahu warns that Israel — also a creation of God — will be removed from their “Gan Eden,” i.e., Eretz Yisrael, if they continue to sin.

But, the parallels do not end there… The parsha of Bereishit does not focus solely on the creation. It also tells the story of the first 10 generations, closing with the births of Noach and, subsequently, his three sons. The Torah then goes on to detail the corruption of the succeeding generations until, as the parsha ends, we read of God bemoaning the creation of man and His decision to destroy mankind.

But what was this “corruption” that the Torah describes? The Rambam writes that the generations “replaced” Hashem with His creations and began to worship nature. This was the idolatry of the time. And it was also the idolatry which Yishayahu condemned in this haftarah.

The criticism of those who bowed to graven images and claimed that the molten idols were their god — was precisely the reason why the Navi opened his prophecy by describing Hashem, as the Creator of all things. Those who worship “things” as divine beings, ignore the fact that all the materials used to fashion these “gods” were created by the One Power. Those who understand that God is the source of all things — the Creator of all — will not be swayed by man-made objects; those who don’t understand that,will worship “things.”

The early chapters of the Torah establish the basis of all belief. Hashem is “the” Creator, without Whom nothing could exist. Our haftarah teaches that lesson to the generations who had forgotten it. The words of the Navi speak directly to them.And they speak to us as well …


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee, and now lives in Israel.

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