Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Light is Hidden Away for the Righteous Ones"

This week, we begin the cycle of Torah reading all over again with the first parshah: Bereshit. So it says "In the beginning ..." I've blogged in the past I do believe about this portion, and it's one of my favorites. It's not just because there's this freshness about starting the year again, reliving the steps of the words of Torah year after year, but also because of how it begins. The entire Torah starts off with the letter bet, which looks like this:
What's so special about this? The rabbis and sages taught that this beginning letter serves a special purpose, considering one might suspect that TaNaKh would begin with an aleph to follow some type of higher principle. Because Hebrew is written right to left, we are taught (via Midrash Bereshit Rabbah) that just as the bet is closed on the top and at the sides, you are not to investigate what is below, what is above, or what comes before -- rather, you must investigate and seek out what is in front.

Some other suggested takes on the use of bet as the first letter of Torah? One sage thought it was because the letter bet connotes power because of the force of the air (ruach) being spoken forth, and another thought that by starting with a bet rather than an aleph, the almighty was in effect revealing that man did not know the first principles about creation (I kind of like this one). Also, for more on this topic, check out Ilana-Davita's blog post on the same topic!

I won't get into a long discussion about the parshah itself, because I'm offering up this stellar new video series called G-dcast , which throws up a new animated piece of the series every Monday. This week's piece features Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and discusses the purpose of "light" in this week's portion and why we have two creations of light in the first creation story of Genesis 1. It's really a fascinating and cool little animated video. Give it a go, will you?

G-dcast: Parshat Bereshit from g-dcast on Vimeo.