Blog

16http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2010/10/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog----10_01_2010
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 10_01_2010
10/01/2010 11:50 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

October 1, 2010

 

 

                This Shabbat, we begin the cycle of Torah reading with the first words of Genesis 1:1. They are among the most familiar words of Torah. You remember them, “In the beginning God created,” and in Hebrew, “Bereisheet bara Elohim.” To rabbinic commentators, every word of Torah held meaning for them. They were so focused on extracting everything they could from these sacred words that they refined their search, in some cases, to single letters. For example, the first letter of the whole Torah is the Hebrew “bet”. Why?

 

                In the past, I have taught you the Midrash about “bet” which also serves as the first letter of the word “baruch” blessed. The connection makes “bet” a perfect letter to begin the whole Torah. But, my favorite Midrash about “bet” is the one that explains how its written form contributes meaning to its place at the beginning of Torah. You see, the Hebrew letter “bet” is written nearly like a four-sided box, except that three sides are closed and one side is opened. The opened side of the letter is opened towards the interior of Torah. Imagine if you were looking for your way out of a dark place. An opened door that led towards a lighted room would be a welcome discovery. So it is with Torah.

 

The three closed sides are darkened pathways that lead to nowhere. It’s just as the Rabbis explained. In their effort to find meaning in a vast universe filled with contradictions and complexities, they advised not to speculate on what was beyond the heavens. Remember they lived in days long before space exploration and air travel; and even presuming their familiarity with telescopes and astrology they were focused only on what they could know, namely, what was written in Torah.

 

They also advised not to speculate on what was in the past. Judaism was supposed to learn from the past, but live in the present where mitzvot (commandments) could make a real difference. What was in the past remained there; it was done. But, today was upon them, so again they turned to what was written in Torah.

 

Finally, they advised not to look beneath the earth. It was a path to the netherworld, or sheol, which was a place without Torah, and therefore without life. Once more, they turned their attention to what was written in Torah. Thus, the “bet” provided a means to remain turned towards the interior of Torah, without any chance of speculating on what was above, behind, or under them.

 

Since then, we have learned a lot about what is above us in the universe, what happened in the past billions of years ago, and also what lies beneath us in the earth. We depend on science in space, history of the past, and archeology in the earth. But, when we need wisdom and insights, truth and ethics for our life and times, to whom do we turn for help? To our Rabbis. And, to what do they turn for lessons for living? To Torah. There is no other body of teachings that has so inspired and led a people like the Torah has led and sustained the Jewish people and other peoples in their faiths. In effect, Torah is beyond the heavens, always in the present, and focused on life on earth.

 

The rabbis-of-old could not have known what we would know in our lifetime. We can’t know what our great-grandchildren will know in theirs. We probably agree that we would not want to live in a world cut off from science and discovery; but, I hope we also agree that we would not want to live in a world without Torah. Its timeless and timely wisdom turns us inward towards truth and ethics for all the ages.

 

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

Blog Search

Categories

Archives

201806June3
June 2018 (3)
201805May3
May 2018 (3)
201804April4
April 2018 (4)
201803March5
March 2018 (5)
201802February4
February 2018 (4)
201801January4
January 2018 (4)
201712December4
December 2017 (4)
201711November2
November 2017 (2)
201710October2
October 2017 (2)
201708August3
August 2017 (3)
201707July4
July 2017 (4)
201706June4
June 2017 (4)
201705May2
May 2017 (2)
201704April3
April 2017 (3)
201703March4
March 2017 (4)
201702February3
February 2017 (3)
201701January3
January 2017 (3)
201612December4
December 2016 (4)
201611November3
November 2016 (3)
201610October3
October 2016 (3)
201609September4
September 2016 (4)
201608August2
August 2016 (2)
201607July5
July 2016 (5)
201606June2
June 2016 (2)
201605May3
May 2016 (3)
201604April4
April 2016 (4)
201603March3
March 2016 (3)
201602February2
February 2016 (2)
201601January4
January 2016 (4)
201512December4
December 2015 (4)
201511November3
November 2015 (3)
201510October2
October 2015 (2)
201509September2
September 2015 (2)
201508August4
August 2015 (4)
201507July5
July 2015 (5)
201506June4
June 2015 (4)
201505May2
May 2015 (2)
201504April5
April 2015 (5)
201503March3
March 2015 (3)
201502February4
February 2015 (4)
201501January4
January 2015 (4)
201412December3
December 2014 (3)
201411November3
November 2014 (3)
201410October4
October 2014 (4)
201409September2
September 2014 (2)
201408August3
August 2014 (3)
201407July3
July 2014 (3)
201406June3
June 2014 (3)
201405May3
May 2014 (3)
201404April4
April 2014 (4)
201403March3
March 2014 (3)
201402February4
February 2014 (4)
201401January5
January 2014 (5)
201312December3
December 2013 (3)
201311November3
November 2013 (3)
201310October4
October 2013 (4)
201309September2
September 2013 (2)
201308August5
August 2013 (5)
201307July4
July 2013 (4)
201306June4
June 2013 (4)
201305May5
May 2013 (5)
201304April4
April 2013 (4)
201303March4
March 2013 (4)
201302February4
February 2013 (4)
201301January5
January 2013 (5)
201212December4
December 2012 (4)
201211November5
November 2012 (5)
201210October4
October 2012 (4)
201209September2
September 2012 (2)
201208August5
August 2012 (5)
201207July4
July 2012 (4)
201206June3
June 2012 (3)
201205May5
May 2012 (5)
201204April4
April 2012 (4)
201203March5
March 2012 (5)
201202February4
February 2012 (4)
201201January4
January 2012 (4)
201112December5
December 2011 (5)
201111November3
November 2011 (3)
201110October3
October 2011 (3)
201109September4
September 2011 (4)
201108August4
August 2011 (4)
201107July3
July 2011 (3)
201106June4
June 2011 (4)
201105May4
May 2011 (4)
201104April4
April 2011 (4)
201103March5
March 2011 (5)
201102February4
February 2011 (4)
201101January4
January 2011 (4)
201012December5
December 2010 (5)
201011November4
November 2010 (4)
201010October5
October 2010 (5)
201009September2
September 2010 (2)
201008August2
August 2010 (2)
201006June3
June 2010 (3)
201005May5
May 2010 (5)
201004April3
April 2010 (3)
Captavi QixSuite™ - Hosted Marketing Automation Software ©