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Bereishit 5771

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Have you heard the one about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac? He stays up all night wondering whether or not there is a dog.

We know how to define a dog - 4 legs, a tail, goes "bow wow" and hates cats - but defining what we mean by "God" is a much harder task.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, of blessed memory, shares some insights from his book, Shabbat - Day of Eternity:

"... How do we, as Jews, define God? We find the answer in the very first verse of the Torah. It says, 'In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.' Here we have a definition of God. God is the Creator of all things. He is the One who brought all things into existence....

"Some people think that God created the world and then forgot about it... that His existence has no bearing on their lives. When God introduced Himself in the Ten Commandments, He said, 'I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage' (Exodus 20:2). God was telling us that He is involved in the affairs of man and has a profound interest in what we do....

"For the Jew, belief in God is more than a mere creed or catechism. It is the basis of all meaning in life, for if the world does not have a creator, then what possible meaning can there be in existence! Man becomes nothing more than a complex physiochemical process, no more important than an ant or a grain of sand. Morality becomes a matter of convenience, or 'might makes right.' It is the belief in God that gives life purpose and meaning. It is also what gives us a standard of right and wrong. If we know that God created the world, and did so for a purpose, then we also realize that everything that furthers this purpose is 'good,' and everything that runs counter to this purpose is 'evil.' "

If you are interested in learning more about the Almighty - you would probably enjoy Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's If You Were God and The Infinite Light.Permission to Believe which presents classical categories of evidence for the existence of God by Lawrence Keleman a fascinating read ( these books are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242).

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Shemini Atzeret begins Wednesday evening, September 29th. Shemini Atzeret is actually a separate festival adjacent to Sukkot. Rashi, the great Biblical commentator, explains that atzeret is an expression of affection, as would be used by a father to children who are departing from him. The father would say, "Your departure is difficult for me, tarry yet another day." The Jewish people prayed and brought offerings all the days of Sukkot so that the 70 nations of the world would have rain in the coming year. The Torah and the Almighty keeps us one more day for a special holiday to make requests just for ourselves. That's Shemini Atzeret.

Yizkor, the memorial service for parents and relatives - and Jews who have been killed because they were Jewish or in defending the Jewish people and Israel - is Thursday morning, September 30th.

Thursday evening begins Simchas Torah, the celebration of completing the yearly cycle of Torah reading and beginning it again. The evening and again the next morning are filled with dance and songs rejoicing in the Torah and thanking God for our being Jewish and that the Almighty gave us the Torah! We read the last Torah portion in Deuteronomy, Vezot Habracha and then begin immediately with Bereishis, starting the book of Genesis. If you take your kids to synagogue twice a year - one time should be Simchas Torah!

For more on "The Almighty" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

The Five Books of Moses begins with the Six Days of Creation, the Shabbat, the story of the Garden of Eden - the first transgression, consequences and expulsion; Cain & Abel, the ten generations to Noah, the Almighty sees the wickedness of man in that generation and decrees to "blot out man" (i.e. the flood).

One of the most profound verses in the whole Torah is "And God created man in His own Image." Since God does not have a physical being, this means that we are endowed with free-will, morality, reason and the ability to emulate God, Who bestows kindness. Also, if we really appreciate that we are created in the image of God, we realize that we have intrinsic worth. Therefore, there is no need to be depressed wondering if you have intrinsic worth!

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"In the beginning the Almighty created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

What can we learn from this verse?

Says Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz: As soon as you start studying Torah, right from the first verse you become aware that there is a Creator and Ruler of the universe. This first awareness already makes a major change in you for the rest of your life. You realize that there is a reason for everything. The world has meaning and purpose.

Without meaning in life - even if you accomplish very much, have health and wealth, fame and fortune - there is a strong feeling that something is missing. It is. Without meaning there is no real enjoyment or satisfaction. Yes, a person can have moments of excitement, joy, and even ecstasy. However, they are short-lived. When the high feelings settle down, there is emptiness. Nothing seems to really matter.

As soon as you internalize the awareness that there is a Creator of the universe, you see plan and purpose. There is an inner glow and a drive for spiritual growth. Those who lack this realization see only the external actions and behaviors of those who live with the reality of the Almighty. They are unaware of the rich inner life of such a person.

The true believer in the Creator is a fortunate person. He is the only one on the planet one should envy. He sees divinity in every flower and tree and in every blade of grass. He sees the design of the Creator in every living creature. He sees something special in every human being. His life, regardless of how it unfolds, is full of purpose and meaning. While he appreciates this world as a gift of the Creator, he looks forward to an eternity of existence. This is the profound message of the first verse of the Torah!


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Jerusalem 4:49
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The greatest mistake you can make in life
is to be continually fearing you will make one.
--  Elbert Hubbard


With Deep Appreciation to

Jack & Diana Hirsch

Los Angeles


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