In the Beginning

“In the beginning” 

Parashat Bereisheet, Genesis 1:1-6:8

by Jonathan Roush

This week we are reminded of many different beginnings. Earlier this week we rolled the Torah scroll all the way back to its beginning, and each passage we read this week talks about the beginning of the world in some way.

Bereisheet (Genesis) opens with the beginning of the world:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1 ESV)

The passage from Isaiah also hearkens back to the beginning of creation:

“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it…” (Is. 42:5 ESV)

Lastly, we read where John, referring to Yeshua, openly proclaimed:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

A few weeks ago on Rosh Hashanah we began the year 5773 and ten days later on Yom Kippur we repented of our sin and asked for a fresh start to this new year. We have been in a season of new beginnings and hopefully, this hasn’t escaped us.

So where does all of this focus on “beginnings” leave us?

Each of these beginnings is an opportunity to adjust or re-adjust the things in our lives that aren’t quite up to par. Perhaps we haven’t been treating those around us with the respect that they deserve, or maybe we haven’t been taking care of our bodies in the way we should. Maybe we haven’t been spending quality time in prayer or in reading the Scriptures.

Since we are once again beginning our yearly journey through the Torah, it’s this last point that I would like to focus on. Because we read through the Torah every year, perhaps there is a temptation to not pay as much as attention as you should. Of course, maybe it is just me, but I don’t think I am alone in this.  After all, we’ve read it before and we’ve heard it before too, right?

Let’s be honest: (meaningful) reading takes discipline. In our Technicolor world of bright lights and constant sound it can be especially difficult for us to quiet our own minds and focus.Readingdemands that you remove outside stimulus in order to really comprehend.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not kvetching. I like to read, so I don’t generally see it as a chore. I am not sure if I was born with an innate love of reading or if it was the “Read-a-thon” fundraisers at school, the Pizza Hut “Book It!” program, or the summer reading programs my parents made me and my sister sign up for every year. Regardless of the cause(s) I really love reading a good book. Even if this doesn’t describe you, we all live in an age in which it is easy to fall prey to distractions and fast transactions, an age that’s not really conducive to reading and taking time to study without making a deliberate choice. These things don’t just happen on their own.

So let’s be deliberate right now. You and I. Turn the TV off, ignore the text messages, and close Facebook. Let’s go back and read those opening verses of Genesis, and let’s not just breeze through them.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1: 1-2 ESV)

The Jerusalem Targum translates verse 2 as:

“And the earth was vacancy and desolation, solitary of the sons of men and void of every animal, and the darkness was upon the face of the abyss; and the Spirit of Mercies from before the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.”

Now, there is a picture! Vacant. Desolate. Cold. Things were in utter chaos until “the Spirit of Mercies” intervened. Ah, divine intervention establishing order in the midst of so much chaos. Once I read that it became much harder for me to mindlessly gloss over those verses. It made them much more alive and real to me. Are the Scriptures alive to you?

While I can’t tell you that it will ever be the easiest thing, I can tell you that, as with any discipline, deliberate reading and study of the Scripture does get easier as you carve out the time and the quiet needed. Is there a better time of the year than now to dedicate ourselves to real and life giving study of God’s word?

To study God’s word is to better know our Messiah, Yeshua, the living Word. After all he is indeed the living embodiment of the Scripture as John proclaimed in his gospel.

“He was in the beginning with God. Everything was made to exist through him, and nothing that was made to exist was made to exist except by him. There was life in him, and the life was light for the sons of men.” (John 1:2-4 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

If we truly “live and move and have our being” in and through him, let’s commit ourselves to do better in our studying than we have before. As we restart our journey through the Torah let’s be careful not to squander this beginning.  Instead let’s focus with greater determination as we read, study, and learn, to follow our Messiah.

May we find God’s word more alive, vibrant and relevant than we have in the past and, through our study, may we find ourselves being transformed more and more into the likeness of Yeshua.

Jonathan Roush

Beth Messiah Congregation,Gaithersburg,MD

Stephanie Escalnate