Yom Sheini, 18 Av 5779
Monday, 19 August 2019
Parashat B'reshit 2012

B'reshit by Rabbi Michael Standfield
12th October 2012

The most commonly given English translation of Genesis 1:1, B’reshit bara Elohim et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz, is: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Interesting to note that, in the Plaut Chumash, the translation is “When God began to create the heaven and the earth”. Following Rashi’s commentary that the text would have been written Bareshit if it was to be translated with the definite article. The Hebrew, as it is vocalised, and here we are dependent on the Masoretic text, does not include a definite article. The Midrash picks up on this in the words of Rabbi Abbahu who said: “The Almighty created many worlds and destroyed them ... until our present world was formed.” This would then answer the age-old question, if Caan murdered his brother, who did he marry, as there is no mention of a sister? The answer would be that he married a woman who was created in one of the many creations as suggested by Rabbi Abbahu.

Another age-old question is do we really believe that the world, or for that matter the whole universe, was created in 6 days? Again we have to go to Rashi who points out that a day, as mentioned in the creation story, is a great deal longer than the twenty four hours that we understand. Rashi, of course, knows his Tanach and, therefore, supports his argument from Psalm 90:4 “for a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in the night”. So Rashi argues that the creation of the universe and of the world took place over thousands of years, and not six days as simply understood.

The whole purpose, however, is not to deliver a lesson on how the world and universe were created, and in what order, as enlightening as it may have been to our ancestors, but to enforce and teach the importance of the Shabbat.

At the conclusion of the six days of creation it tells us that “on the seventh day God finished the work of which he had been doing and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work which He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation which He had done.” These words we recite every Friday evening at the Kiddush to remind us that, if God rested on the seventh day, how much more so should we. This is the whole purpose of the creation story, to emphasise the observance of the seventh day as a day of rest.