But where to start…If ever there was a jam-packed parasha, huh? Creation of it all – the cosmos, the natural world, the humanity of it all. It began with chaos.
Chaos. The world was unformed and chaotic, void, tohu v’vohu (Gen 1:2)
Chaos appeals to me. Actually, that’s not true. Order appeals to me, but so does the idea of making order out of chaos. I’m not always successful, but it is my fervent desire to do so. It’s a goal, a dream, a place where I imagine there is calm and serenity. I am not overstating this. This last weekend, in the middle of Sukkot, it seemed like everyone I knew was switching over their closets. Moving the summer clothes out, and moving the sweaters and boots in. There are probably people who have big enough closets for both, but I don’t. Anyway, the annual fashion show is probably the only snapshot moment in the year when there is a moment of perfect order and balance in my closeted universe. It is a brief but powerful, dare I say divine, moment.
The fact that God started from chaos is odd when you think about it. The JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis notes that one would think that God could have pretty much created a perfectly organized universe right from the start, just like God could probably have created a perfect world all at once, rather than spreading it out over six days. God did neither. But why start with something that you were just going to change anyway? JPS states, “The quintessential point of the narrative is the idea of ordering that is the result of divine intent.” (p.6) Makes you think there’s a lesson in here about process over product.
Insight might be found in the words used in this part of Bereshit. The creation word at this point is bara, as in, “Bereshit bara Elohim….When God was creating in the beginning…..”, but from then on, God created the things in the world with vayomer, speaking, (And God said, Let there be….). That is, until verse 27, when we read, “And God created (bara) Adam in God’s image, in the image of God, God created (bara) Adam, male and female, God created (bara) them. Three times in one sentence, all regarding the beginning of humanity, when all the other beginnings in the chapter come into being with words, “And God said……” Seriously, the Torah is making a point here.
“It is a fundamental biblical teaching that the original, divinely ordained order in the physical world has its counterpart in the divinely ordered universal moral order to which the human race is subject.” (JPS Commentary, pg 6)
Over the last couple of weeks, we have considered new beginnings; the new year, new moon, new harvests to bring in. This Shabbat is Simchat Torah – beginning again, literally rolling back to the start. This Shabbat we turn inward again, seeking to smooth the turbulence and bring our own world into being. When the world is whole and healthy, it is in balance, in order. It is like bara, from Divine intent. It’s the same for us – we are whole when we are in balance, and in order, also manifesting the Divine intent. We weren’t created with evil or badness – just confusion. For that, we strive each day, to calm the chaos, and bring order to our lives. And our closets.