Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

          Bereishit is the longest Torah portion – not in verses (146), but in time, spanning over 1500 years (over 10 years per verse).  The majestic English of Genesis with which we are so familiar is largely from William Tyndale’s 16th century translation, disregarding the spelling, a huge amount of which was carried over into the King James Version. For example:

1 In the begynnynge God created heaven and erth. 2 The erth was voyde and emptie ad darcknesse was vpon the depe and the spirite of god moved vpon the water3 Than God sayd: let there be lyghte and there was lyghte. 4 And God sawe the lyghte that it was good: ( )

         Reading the stories of Creation is particularly appropriate at this time of year: Tishrei is the first month of the modern Jewish calendar, school and other community activities re-start now, and even the start of the Federal fiscal year has been kicked down the road into autumn.  The stories in these first chapters – mainly Creation, Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel  (note that Ch. 4 9 “am I my brothers keper?” is another Tyndale translation), and multicentenarians, until  the human life span is reduced to 120 years – can be viewed from a variety of angles:  dogma, unifying national myth, literature.  In Hebrew school, I even heard a rabbi suggest that maybe the brevity and simplicity of  Creation in Genesis was in reaction to (or a parody of) the elaborate creation tales spun by other peoples. 

          Even as literature, we’re not sure what to make of it: a bunch of brief, ancient stories  (the Cain and Abel story is but a paragraph long) collected 3000 years ago? Or was there more conscious editing and unifying? Professor Gary A. Rendsburg of Rutgers in an audio course by The Teaching Company on Genesis, sees it as a unified whole, even though there are two Creation stories in Genesis. Two years ago, I wrote,  “For example:  The idea that the Lord created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing) is a later theological idea.  A careful translation of 1:1-3 renders it not ‘In the beginning, God created heaven and earth,…’ but rather, ‘When God began to create heaven and earth — 2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water — 3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’  What God is doing is not creating something out of nothing, but bringing order (wind, light, goodness) out of existing chaos (unformed, void, darkness, deep).  Prof. Rendsburg notes that the text is chosen very carefully, using not the expected Hebrew words for sun, moon and sea, since those words are each associated with a pagan deity, but rather ‘the greater light,’ ‘the lesser light’ and seas (plural).  This is the first, cosmogenic, Creation story.  The second Creation story, in chapters 2 and 3, is anthropogenic, centering on the creation of humanity, the relationship between humans and God, and free will.”

      By the end of this week’s Torah portion, the Lord is unhappy enough to flood the earth and start all over.  Tune in next week.

Shabbat shalom,



I will be retiring in about a month.  Before I lose all memory of patent law, I present here Creation as it might be claimed, though not necessarily granted, in a patent application:

I, the Deity, claim:

1. A method comprising the steps of:

          a) providing an earth that is unformed and void, characterized by a darkness over the surface of deep water;

          b) sweeping a wind across said deep water;

          c) saying “let there be light,” thereby producing light; and

          d) separating the light from the darkness,

thereby creating heaven and earth on a first day.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step:

           e) separating water from sky on a second day.

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising the steps:

           f) gathering the water into seas, allowing dry land to appear; and

           g) commanding the land to sprout vegetation,

wherein steps f) and g) are performed on a third day.

4.  The method of claim 3 wherein the vegetation comprises seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.

5. The method of claim 3, further comprising the steps:

          h) creating a greater light to rule the day; and

          i)  creating a lesser light to rule the night

wherein steps h) and i) are performed on a fourth day.

6.  The method of claim 5, further comprising the step:

          j) creating water animals and winged birds on a fifth day.

7.  The method of claim 6, further comprising the steps:

          k) creating land animals; and

          l) creating at least one human in the image of the Deity,

wherein steps k) and l) are performed on a sixth day.

8.   The method of claim 7 wherein the land animals comprise cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts.

9.   The method of claim 7, wherein the at least one human is in charge of all animals and vegetation.

10. The method of claim 7, further comprising the steps:

          m) pronouncing the results “very good” and

          l) resting on a seventh day.

11.  A heaven and an earth produced according to the method of claim 1.

12.  A plot of dry land produced according to the method of claim 3.

13.  An item of vegetation produced according to the method of claim 4.

14.  A greater light produced according to the method of claim 5.

15.  A lesser light produced according to the method of claim 5.

16.  A water animal produced according to the method of claim 6.

17.  A winged bird produced according to the method of claim 6.

18.  A land animal produced according to the method of claim 7.

19.  A human produced according to the method of claim 7, wherein the human is male and/or female.



A prominent young attorney died on his way to court, and found himself before the gates of Heaven. When he arrived, a chorus of angels appeared, singing in his honor. St. Peter himself came out to shake his hand. “Mr Jones,” said St. Peter, “it is a great honor to have you here at last. You are the first being to break Methuselah’s record for longevity. You have lived 1028 years.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the attorney. “I’m 46.”

“46? But aren’t you Steven Jones? The lawyer from Brooklyn”

“Yes,” the attorney answered.

“Let me check the records,” said St Peter. He slapped his hand against his forehead. “Oh, how silly of us. Now I see the mistake! We accidentally calcluated your age by adding up the hours you billed to your clients!”


The Truth  Monday, May 21st, 2007

Eve, in the Garden of Eden, called out to the skies, “Oh Lord, I have a problem.”

And the Lord said, Whats the matter Eve?”

“I know you created me and this beautful garden,” said Eve, “but I’m lonely and I’m sick of eating apples.”

“Well, in that case,” replied the Almighty, “I will create a man for you.”

“What’s a man?” asked Eve.

“He’s a flawed creature with aggressive tendencies, an enormous ego and an inability to listen. But he’s big and fast and muscular. He’ll be really good at fighting and kicking a ball and hunting animals — and not bad in the sack.”

“Sounds great!” replied Eve.

“There’s one condition,” added the Lord. “You’ll have to let him believe I made him first.”


From 2009 – appropriate for Nobel Prize week

We Don’t Need You Anymore [oldie but goodie]

      One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no

longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell God that they were done with Him.

      The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you.

We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just

go on and get lost.”

      God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking,

God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a ‘man-making contest.” To which the scientist

replied, “OK, great!”

      God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” The

scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

      God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!”


Soon-to-be Israeli centenarian becomes advertising poster woman


She will soon celebrate her 100th birthday, but Luba Fishman has found a new career – as a poster woman for an international cosmetics company.

The Latvian-born, Israel-domiciled great-grandmother was chosen as a new face for Dove Cosmetics’ “real beauty” campaign, with the slogan “Does true beauty have an age limit?” The company says the campaign is designed to avoid “beauty stereotypes.” Luba was born in Latvia in 1912, and moved to pre-state Israel in 1932.

 Her unlikely career as a model began when an executive at an advertising agency received a request for help to find a 100-year-old model. The executive immediately thought of her husband’s grandmother, and Luba, when asked, burst out laughing, explaining that she was not at all photogenic. Assured that the photography would be of a high professional standard, Luba gave her assent.

“In the beginning it amused me – to be a model at my old age,” she told the Yediot Ahranot daily. “But really, it was worth waiting until now. I feel like a queen.”

by Doron Keshet l Mar 8, 2011 12:00 AM

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