B’resheet (In the Beginning) Genesis 1:1-6:8
Haftorah Readings: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
Today we begin the yearly Torah cycle anew with our first reading in Genesis. Our reading begins with two Hebrew words usually translated as “In the beginning.” However, a more accurate translation would be “In beginning.” The literal translation more accurately expresses the true meaning of the opening words. In the beginning gives the idea that there was already a beginning. However, the Hebrew wording, “In beginning” more clearly states that everything began with G-d. G-d steps in and starts the entire process. He spoke and things appeared from just His word. A small but very important distinction.
My question this week concerns the reaction of Adam and Eve as well as Cain when confronted by G-d after their respective sins. I want us to examine their response from the point of view of responsibility and motivation. Both of these are very important to us in our life.
First let’s look at Adam and Eve. As we all know they sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. From their initial reaction we can see they were embarrassed and ashamed so they hid. However, they quickly learned no one can hide from G-d. Genesis 3:9-12. Their reaction to G-d’s question was the same. Each tried to place the blame on someone else. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. They each said, in effect, it wasn’t me. Someone else caused me to sin. The result of their sin was paradise lost. They both were punished and exiled from the garden. Why? Each of them denied personal responsibility. They said in effect to G-d, “It wasn’t me.”
Our next case involved Cain’s murder of his brother. This story is found in Genesis 4:8-10. Notice Cain’s response when confronted by G-d. He didn’t say, “It wasn’t my fault,” or “It wasn’t me.” Instead he denied moral responsibility. He basically said why should he be concerned about the welfare of his brother or anyone else for that matter. Why should we not do what we want if we have the power to do so? Sound familiar? “Might make right. I am responsible only for myself.” These ideas have echoed down through the ages. These two stories reflect human history. They represent both a failure of personal responsibility and moral responsibility in our world. We are, as people of G-d, expected to rise above these answers we read here in our Torah portion.
We are expected to be examples to our world as a people who are different. We are to be people who take responsibility both personally and morally. We are to be active and not passive. When bad things happen we are not to avert our eyes and look the other way. When we read the Messianic Scriptures what picture does Yeshua give us of how we are to live? We are to become active in helping the poor and sick. If something is wrong let us work to put it right. We see examples beginning with Genesis and throughout scripture.
Avraham was willing to even confront G-d. In Genesis 18:25 he said to G-d, “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice,” when G-d was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He argued and bargained with the Father in an effort to save the people. We see in the Messianic scriptures Yeshua confronting the religious leaders over their lack of concern for the hurt and hungry among the people. They were looking out for their own comfort instead.
In our verses today we see G-d call out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” This same call is still being asked today. Where are we? G-d knew perfectly well where they were. His point was to allow them to see where they were.
A responsible life is a life that responds. The Hebrew word for responsibility is, “achrayut.” The root of this word is “Acher’ when means other. Our other is G-d Himself, through Yeshua. The Father is calling us to help reform His creation, to make it a better place. In our world His voice has a lot of competition such as our own desires or as in the case of Cain, our anger. May we all follow the voice of the Father.
One last point in this portion that I think should give us a clear picture of personal and moral responsibility is in Genesis 4:16. Here we read, “And Cain went out from before the L-rd.” What is interesting is the word in Hebrew being used to translate “went out.” The word in Hebrew is Yetzah. This word is more closely translated as exited. This same word is used in Israel for people to locate the place to exit a building. A more common word for “went out” would be “elech” which would be “he went.” Using the word Yetzah is conveying the thought that Cain took himself out of G-d’s presence. He made no effort to reconcile what had happened and in fact, as far as scripture is concerned, never faced what he had done.
We must never come to the place of taking ourselves out of G-d’s presence. The Father is always there and willing to be reconciled to us. However, Cain, by what is written here, took himself out of G-d’s covering and never faced what he had done.
Blessings to each of you this week.