Sunday, October 23, 2011

A thought about Bereishit.

A little late admittedly, but I thought I would give a tiny word about Bereishit. Simply because for years I have been carrying around this little mini-drash and I have never written it down (though I have taught it constantly). I am certain that I am not the first to think of this, but I never heard it from anyone else - I just came up with it one day when arguing the merits of what I call positive agnosticism (that's for a different blog to explain what that is..). Anyway here it is.

בראשית ברא אלהים

As we all know - that is how parashat Bereishit and the whole of Torah begins. We all also know that it is traditionally read with two kamatzim under the word ברא - bara. But we all also know that the nikud of the masoretic text is a later addition - it is in itself a version of interpretation. There is another way of pointing the text - instead of with two kamatzim - bara - it could be pointed with a sheva and a kamatz - b'ra - the imperative form. As such the line would no longer read, "In the beginning God created", but rather, "In the beginning, create God". This reading makes much more sense. Even before Darwin, my guess is that most people did not believe the creation myth was intended as natural history - it is intended to teach us something, to impart values and help us shape an identity as moral beings. As such, it starts with a simple formula - create for yourself a deity - a sense of the divine - live as if there is an absolute right and wrong, a morality that you are bound to. This sense of the divine, this אלהים will help you understand the rest of the world as you perceive it and guide you towards being an upright human being.

That's my little drash for Bereishit.