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Bereishit 5783 ~ Oct. 21, 2022

Often, when we start reading the Torah anew beginning with the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, we find ourselves spending moments discussing the wonderment and beauty of our world. We imagine, in awe, how each day of creation might have taken place.

Routinely, we discuss protecting our environment and a return of our world to the days of Gan Eden.  We might spend time recalling the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge. Perhaps we reflect upon the guile of the snake and the overwhelming temptation and desire of, and for, the forbidden fruit. We might find ourselves debating the concept of seduction as a means of enticing another into an action that might be contrary.  We might discuss the concept of jealousy and how it entraps an individual, as in the case of the story of the first murder in the Torah.  We might find ourselves debating the issue of culpability, both through the lens of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden or the murder of Abel by Cain. We might also engage in a discussion on what it means to be “our brother’s keeper.”

If one looks at the story more carefully, one might suggest that we might not want a return to Gan Eden in a utopian “Shangri La- esq” vision. For while we all have been taught to yearn for a return to the utopian the Garden of Eden, in our religious philosophy today, Gan Eden is more reflective of Olam Ha’bah. It is not our world of today, but the world where we ultimately end up following our days on this earth. It is more of the messianic age that we need to focus our attention on.

Having gained the knowledge of the tree, perhaps it was God’s goal that we move out of the Garden to use its wisdom to its fullest. In our studies, we might then concentrate on valuing the vast wealth of the land that Adam and Eve were cast into following the Gan Eden story and the ability to be “our brother’s keeper.” We might see the end of despotism, totalitarianism and atrocities committed both in a military aggression upon other nations in jealousy of their land (Putin) and upon inhabitants within one’s own land (such as in Iran today.) We might see a world where the Abel’s of the world transform themselves into the warrior protecting oneself from the aggression of their neighbor (Ukraine). We might find a day where the story is rewritten to be not male dominant, but be more inclusive and tolerant of women, other races and other cultures.  If we rewrite the story for today, we might see the beauty of the female mystique and not the male view that portrays women in a seductive manner.  We might view the dialogue between Eve and Adam in a much different manner with a much different outcome. But that is already a fruit that has fallen from the tree; and our world needs to progress forward to a greater understanding of equality beyond the Garden.

As anti-Semitism wreaks its awful head on college campuses, I am disheartened to read that one campus has created a Jew Free Zone (Berkley) where movies glorifying Hitler are being played on the sides of trucks. The world needs to understand how wrong that is. I believe that both the leaders of the administration and the student government have not learned from the story of Cain and Abel.  

Being “our brother’s keepers” can also focus our attention on those in our community who are unable to make ends meet in our economically challenged times.  As we see our global economy changing in a manner that challenges the middle- and lower-income ability to put a roof over one’s head and food on one’s table, we sense a tension between the value of the vast wealth of the earth’s resources and food and the lack of ability of the middle and lower classes to be able to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. And we wonder whether it is a change in the resources, a lack of desire to work the land provided in the story, or simply a matter of greed by those of who have gained beyond their own imaginable needs at the expense of others. I was saddened to learn just today, that here in New London, the funds distributed by the United Way to provide for our homeless and poor have been used up…with so many still in need.

The topic is one that is more than just the story in the opening chapters of Genesis. It is our world’s story.  In that regard, it is not an old story or a new story. It is a continuation of the chapters with a yearning to a peaceful and productive manner which both Adam and Eve were placed in… not a utopian dream, but a real world with God’s anticipation of what it truly should be.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783